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Toyota-backed firm plans to roll out 10,000 hydrogen-powered taxis by 2024

HysetCo has raised € 80 million to help hasten the shift to the clean fuel

Toyota-backed firm HysetCo will use funds it raised to transition the fleet of taxis in Paris to run on hydrogen. AP  
Toyota-backed firm HysetCo will use funds it raised to transition the fleet of taxis in Paris to run on hydrogen. AP  

A French company plans to persuade 10,000 Paris taxi drivers to switch to hydrogen-powered cars by the time the Olympic Games come to town in three years.

HysetCo, a venture part-owned by Toyota Motor and Air Liquide, has raised €80 million ($97m) to help hasten the shift, it said on Tuesday. When Paris hosts the world’s top sporting showcase in summer 2024, the city will already be rid of diesel cars, ahead of a ban on petrol cars from 2030.

HysetCo, whose other owners include the Societe du Taxi Electrique Parisien, has used the money raised – mostly through convertible debt – to buy Paris taxi operator Slota Group, it said in a statement. It will replace most or all of Slota’s 600 diesel taxis by the end of the year with Mirai hydrogen-powered cars made by Toyota, according to Societe’s chairman, Mathieu Gardies.

Societe already operates about 100 hydrogen-powered taxis under the Hype brand in Paris. Such models appeal to taxi and ride-hail drivers because they travel as far as petrol cars and take only three minutes to fill, just a fraction of the time needed to charge battery vehicles, Mr Gardies said in an interview.

While many carmakers are now spending vast sums to develop battery vehicles, Toyota is one of just a few to invest heavily in hydrogen-powered cars, which are still more costly to produce. Taxi fleet deals such as this are one way for manufacturers to add sales and raise consumer awareness of the cars, which emit only water vapour.

HysetCo’s target to shift 10,000 taxi drivers – a fifth of the total in the greater Paris region – to hydrogen cars by the end of 2024 is built on incentives including ready access to vehicles, hydrogen and customers, Mr Gardies said. Running costs for these drivers would be similar to those of petrol or diesel cars, he said.

To support a growing fleet of hydrogen vehicles, HysetCo plans to build two refuelling stations in the Paris area in 2021, adding to the three already operating and targets about 20 stations by the end of 2024. It also intends to replicate the hydrogen push in other cities as an increasing number adopt stricter pollution curbs.

Transport in urban centres emits “a lot of carbon dioxide and particulates”, Pierre-Etienne Franc, head of hydrogen at Air Liquide, the world’s number 2 maker of industrial gases, said.

Governments in various places from California to the UK “want to get rid of diesel transport”, and “we’re preparing the must-have solution”, Mr Franc said.

Updated: January 20, 2021 09:20 AM

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