Renault Group

Everything there is to know about hydrogen vehicles

20 December 2022
3 min
voitures hydrogenes
In line with climate change mitigation strategies, fossil fuels such as diesel and unleaded petrol are being phased out in favour of more eco-friendly energy sources with lower carbon footprints. Keen to use this paradigm shift as an opportunity, Renault has invested in a range of promising technologies. The Group’s R&D teams are working on electric cars, naturally enough, but also on hydrogen-powered cars, hydrogen-powered Formula 1 cars, LPG-powered cars and hybrid cars. Renault sees hydrogen cars as a complementary solution to electric cars in the transition to zero emission and sustainable mobility. Interested in finding out about the hydrogen technologies developed by Renault? Read on for an overview of the Group’s current and future projects.
by Nicolas LE-BOUCHER

What is a hydrogen vehicle?

In its Climate plan, Renault Group pledged to achieve carbon neutrality in Europe by 2040 and worldwide by 2050. The Group believes that hydrogen-powered cars, along with all-electric cars, are the future of driving. Renault has already released a hydrogen-powered utility vehicle and aims to hold a 30% share of the European market by 2030 with the HYVIA joint venture. Renault and Alpine have unveiled hydrogen-powered concept cars.

There are essentially two types of hydrogen-powered vehicles: those that use an internal-combustion engine and those that use a fuel cell.

Hydrogen internal-combustion engine vehicles (HICEVs) run on a hydrogen/oxygen mixture.

The term “hydrogen vehicle” is generally used to refer to a type of electric vehicle that uses a hydrogen fuel cell to power an electric motor.

renault master
Hyvia’s fuel cell

How do hydrogen fuel cells work?

Hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity without any combustion.
Instead, they combine hydrogen (stored in a tank) and oxygen (from the air) in an electrochemical reaction, producing electricity, heat and water vapour. The electricity is stored in a battery until needed by the electric motor. Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) exhaust only water vapour.

How far can a hydrogen-powered vehicle go?

Hydrogen fuel cells can be used in combination with energy storage systems (such as batteries) to optimise energy management. The total range of a hydrogen-powered electric vehicle therefore depends on the capacity of the battery and the size of the tank.
Hydrogen fuel cells function as range extenders in hydrogen-powered electric vehicles.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles offer many benefits – they generate no carbon emissions when in use, offer impressive ranges, and can be refuelled in less than 5 minutes like vehicles running on fossil fuels.

renault master van h2-tech
Renault Master Van H2-Tech presented at the Paris Motorshow in 2022

The Renault Master Van H2-Tech, a hydrogen-powered utility vehicle

The Renault Master Van H2-Tech, the Group’s first mass-production hydrogen-powered utility vehicle, was presented at the Paris Motor Show in 2022. Four hydrogen tanks with a total capacity of 6.4 kg – 1.6 kg each – give this model released in late 2022 a range of up to 400 km.

Renault believes that, at present, hydrogen power can be a viable solution for corporate or professional vehicle fleets. Under the HYVIA joint venture, Renault’s primary target audience for this technology is people who drive long distances, face regulatory challenges in urban centres, and regularly return to a base location (e.g. a warehouse) near a hydrogen refuelling station.

To cater for professional customers and local authorities, HYVIA (a joint venture between Renault and Plug Power) is developing a range of Renault-branded hydrogen-powered light utility vehicles with a dual power system comprising a 33 kWh battery, a 30 kW fuel cell and hydrogen tanks with a capacity of 3-7 kg.
These technologically advanced vehicles offer an impressive range – of up to 400 km – and quick refuelling times (3 minutes).

renault scenic vision
Renault Scénic Vision unveiled at the ChangeNOW summit in May 2022

The Renault Scénic Vision, a hydrogen-powered concept car

The Renault Scénic Vision was unveiled at the ChangeNOW summit in May 2022. This hydrogen‑powered concept passenger car is equipped with a hydrogen-electric hybrid system inspired by the HYVIA H2-Tech technology used in the Master Van H2-TECH. The electric motor is coupled with a 16 kW hydrogen fuel-cell range extender, achieving the same range with a battery half the size and reducing carbon emissions.

The Renault Scénic Vision is in keeping with the Group’s decarbonisation plan, as it uses low-carbon materials, is produced responsibly at carbon-neutral facilities, features a battery and a motor containing no rare-earth elements and produces zero exhaust emissions thanks to its hydrogen‑electric system.

Renault Group deems this hydrogen technology to be a viable solution for private vehicles over the next 10 years.

alpenglow alpine
Alpine unveiled the Alpine Alpenglow concept car at the Paris Motor Show

The Alpine Alpenglow, an experimental hydrogen-powered concept race car

The Alpine F1 Team tests out cutting-edge technology developed by Renault Group.

Alpine regards hydrogen-powered vehicles as a complementary solution to electric vehicles that offer driving sensations and pleasure similar to those provided by a combustion engine car, just without the CO2 emissions.

Alpine has invested in R&D to determine whether hydrogen power could provide the necessary level of performance for sport cars or even F1 cars in the future.
Alpine unveiled the Alpine Alpenglow concept car at the Paris Motor Show. This race car equipped with a hydrogen-fuelled internal-combustion engine is just as swift and lightweight as any supercar.
Alpenglow’s research investigating the viability of using hydrogen power in motorsports would suggest that it could also be used in sports cars driven in other contexts.

To fulfil the objectives set out in its Climate plan, Renault Group is investing in more than just its vehicles. Its decarbonisation strategy addresses upstream activities (reducing the carbon footprint of factories and suppliers) and downstream activities (scaling up the renovation, dismantling and recycling of vehicles and batteries at the end of their useful life). Speaking at the Renault Scénic Vision reveal, Luca de Meo said, “Our corporate commitments need to apply to everything we do – and that includes our vehicles.”.


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