Vélo Mag – The hydrogen bike is rolling into the future


In Biarritz, Pragma Mobility manufactures, rents and recycles the only “hydrogen bicycle” in the world. If fuel cells, less polluting than lithium batteries, are not THE miracle solution, they have a bright future ahead: especially on our bikes? No noise, no smoke. We pride ourselves on driving electric rather than diesel, and it would be showing bad faith not to see any improvement. But for all that, electric propulsion cannot be adorned with all the virtues, and apparent progress may turn out to be only a new avatar of the problem. read also Cyril Barthe’s favorite journey Of course, the movement of an electric vehicle does not generate immediate pollution (except for the particles generated by mechanical wear), but the same cannot be said of its manufacture , nor of its future: because, if electricity is a natural phenomenon, batteries are an ecological puzzle. Polluting batteries From this point of view, one can wonder if the lithium batteries that currently power electric motors are much better than the good old lead-acid batteries, sometimes at the origin of massive intoxication phenomena but essential for starters. of our heat engines. The presence in their composition of certain metals seriously worsens their carbon footprint from the moment of manufacture. More or less rare, these minerals generate excessively polluting mining activity. It should be noted in passing that lithium itself is not so rare as it is « diffuse » and that it involves the extraction of phenomenal quantities of rocks, an enormous consumption of water, the massive use of thermal vehicles, etc. see also Premiums for women’s cycling, an eternal debate Moreover, at the present time, the recycling of these batteries is at the very least imperfect: it consists in melting the metals to separate them by magnetization, but the lithium itself, being present not in metallic form but in the form of salts, is not recoverable!

The fuel cell, the hydrogen bicycle The bicycle, an ecological emblem if there is one, is no exception to these heavy stakes. « It is estimated that 600 million VAE (electrically assisted bicycles) will be sold worldwide in the next 10 years, the ecological challenge posed by soft mobility is immense », explains Pierre Forté, PGD of Pragma-Industries, a company specializing in fuel cells, whose subsidiary Pragma-Mobility now produces the only “hydrogen bicycle” in the world. A hydrogen fuel cell transforms the chemical energy, released by the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, into electrical energy, thus releasing only water molecules. 1 to 5 minutes The charging time of a hydrogen bike.  » Above all, continues Mr. Forté, our battery contains 5 to 10,000 times less metals than a lithium battery. These are very small amounts of platinum – 5 to 7 mg per battery – which is a rare metal, which as such must be recovered, but which we ourselves take care of recycling. «  On the performance side, let’s mention the “energy density” of the system, to say the least interesting, since 1 kg of hydrogen is equivalent to the energy stored in … 75 lithium batteries. Thus the Alpha bike gives way to a 3 liter tank at 300 bars of pressure, which allows the system to deliver 1150 W / h! The recharge time is ridiculously low (1 to 5 minutes), and the range is between 100 and 200 km. The battery life is 13 or 14 years (compared to 2 to 4 for a lithium battery), and that of the tank 25 years. « What has no interest for the user, remarks Pierre Forté. But for us this means that the bicycle has residual value, since our activity, from production to recycling to rental, completes the entire life cycle of the system. The object at the end of its life is still a source of added value. It is therefore its recycling that allows us to lower the purchase price of the bike! In 2017, the prototypes « came out » at around 15,000 €, the Alpha Neo model should show only 4,690 €. As for the long-term rental that we want to focus on, our goal is to lower the price below 90 € per month from next year. It’s not economies of scale, it’s engineering. «  see also The little-known rules of cyclists Not a panacea, but … However, hydrogen is not the miracle solution. Not only are charging stations not commonplace _ they are part of the pack that Pragma Mobility offers its customers – but at present, 90% of the production of di-hydrogen, which is certainly less polluting than that of batteries in the lithium, is far from neutral for the environment in terms of greenhouse gases. Pierre Forté, CEO of Pragma Mobility « We try to do everything in France » “It depends on how it is made, there are more virtuous solutions than others, continues the CEO of Pragma Industries. There will be geographical differences, as with electricity production: if you drive electric in France, you run nuclear. If it’s in Germany, you’re driving 50% coal. And in England, 46% natural gas. «  The path to hydrogen « 100% green » is still long. But the announcement made this Wednesday, October 12 by the President of the Republic, to allocate 7 billion euros to the hydrogen production sector, is good news. read also The cycle bike, between productivity and good health In addition, this plan is a promise of subsidies for potential customers of Pragma Mobility, which are local authorities. “On our side, we manufacture and recycle. We obviously try to do everything in France. For now we have a recycling workshop in Biarritz, a lab in Grenoble. These 7 billion are not made to fuel the Chinese economy! «  concludes M. Forté.

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