While Hopium promises to release its first hydrogen vehicle in 2025, it’s the turn of NamX, a French start-up, to unveil its first HUV prototype. Focus on these two companies with futuristic ambitions.
In 2017 and 2019 respectively, two companies named NamX and Hopium decided to bet on the commercialization of the first hydrogen-powered cars. And the two French start-ups are now aiming to make their mark on the global market. Explanations.
Olivier Lombard: from racing driver to ambitious self-entrepreneur
After winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, which was only his first participation, this qualified driver decided to take on an entrepreneurial challenge: founding his own company. “I needed to take risks, overcome obstacles, find solutions, constantly adapt…” he explains to the daily newspaper Les Echos.
Inspired by the fantastic billionaire and founder of successful companies Elon Musk, he created in October 2019 the first French hydrogen car start-up: Hopium. And this is then the beginning of a long and visionnary journey for the young pilot of 28 years at the time.
The first French hydrogen car: Hopium Machina
With the investors convinced by his project and the entrepreneur supported by more than 200 engineers and companies who believed in his project, the first car designed by Hopium – or at least its prototype – was born: the Hopium Machina. From that moment on, the company gradually began to make a name for itself among the innovative French automotive start-ups.
Presented for the first time at the Vivatech show in Paris in June 2021, it impresses at first sight. 230 km/h on the odometer, 500 horsepower, 1000 km range for a hydrogen recharge time of only three minutes: the Hopium Machina beats all records. And it is also the first time that a hydrogen car is presented to the public.
Shortly after the show, the Hopium Machina, sold at a price of 125,000 euros, was a great success with customers and received nearly 1,100 pre-orders. A real victory for the former racing driver.
Promised for 2025, the Machina and its futuristic look has managed to seduce the former Minister of Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, who has been authorized by the High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life (HATVP) to join the board of directors of this company.
Le Conseil d’Administration d’Hopium propose la nomination de Monsieur @Djebbari_JB, Ministre délégué aux Transports, en qualité d’administrateur.
— Hopium (@hopiumofficial) May 16, 2022
NamX, Hopium’s new competitor
But recently, a new player in this growing market has entered to compete with Hopium. In Turin, Italy, French-Moroccan entrepreneur Faouzi Annajah unveiled “NamX”, the new hydrogen-powered car manufacturer.
Passionate about cars since he was a child, the man who worked for Renault for over 35 years presented the prototype of his HUV (Hydrogen Utility Vehicle) on May 11. The vehicle was designed in partnership with Pininfarina, an Italian design company that has worked for big names in the automotive industry such as Ferrari.
“The HUV is a sleek and muscular hydrogen SUV whose main tank is complemented by a set of six capsules for a total range of up to 800 kilometers. The use of capsules as secondary tanks is a disruptive innovation that paves the way for the large-scale deployment of hydrogen for passenger vehicles through a new, fully decentralized, on-demand energy distribution model,” said a NamX release.
The new hydrogen-powered SUV will be offered in two versions: a 300-horsepower model with pure rear-wheel drive and a 550-horsepower model with four-wheel drive and a speed of up to 250 km/h. Its price is also very competitive with the 125,000 euros of the Hopium Machina: the CEO announced a price range between 65,000 and 95,000 euros.
Hydrogen, the enemy of ecology ?
HUV planned for 2025, the promises made by NamX and in particular ecological are numerous, so much the question of the environmental impact of these new hydrogen vehicles makes debate. If the ambition of this company is to conciliate human mobility and environmental preservation by means of green hydrogen, it is still essential to think about the best ecological and economical way to produce non-polluting hydrogen.
Hydrogen is an ecological gas from a consumption point of view, but its production and distribution are very polluting for the planet. These two factors should generate a gas leakage rate of 10%, i.e. more than 60 million tons evacuated into the air per year, and whose particles are very harmful for the ozone layer, explains Tracey Tromp, researcher at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
The question of the (French?) manufacture of these vehicles having been only slightly addressed by these two start-ups, it remains to be seen if they will be able to find a more ecological and non-polluting alternative to the manufacture and distribution of their vehicles in hydrogen. To be continued…
Featured photo : © Hopium
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