Partner Interview: Nathanaël Sueur from Air Liquide talks about hydrogen refuelling stations for heavy-duty vehicles

As the truck industry continues to focus on providing zero-emission solutions to reduce fossil fuel use and decarbonise the road transport sector in Europe, we interviewed Nathanaël Sueur, Business Developer Hydrogen Energy at Air Liquide. Nathanaël Sueur is closely involved in the H2Haul project, which aims to deploy four hydrogen refuelling stations and 16 hydrogen-powered trucks.

Tell us more about Air Liquide’s role in the H2Haul project

Air Liquide brings its 60-year of expertise on hydrogen technologies, from the production, transport, storage to distribution. H2Haul is a concrete example of Air Liquide’s commitment to develop the low-carbon and renewable hydrogen sector, for both industrial and clean mobility markets. In the H2Haul project, Air Liquide has developed, invested and operates the first high pressure hydrogen station to refuel fuel cell electric trucks with low-carbon hydrogen, in the South of France (Fos sur Mer).

Why are hydrogen refuelling stations for heavy-duty vehicles important for this sector now?

Hydrogen technology is particularly interesting to decarbonaise the heavy-duty sector, thanks to the high autonomy provided by the vehicles (up to 800 kms), and the fast refuelling at the stations. As the quantities stored in the vehicles are much more important than light duty vehicles, it is key to deploy dedicated hydrogen refuelling stations, able to distribute large capacities of hydrogen in the shortest time possible.

What are some of the key considerations before embarking on a hydrogen refuelling project for heavy-duty vehicles? 

One of the key elements that made the success to the H2Haul program was the creation of a unique ecosystem that gathers all the actors along the value chain. The development of the station by Air Liquide was coordinated with the truck manufacturer. Several carriers and shippers joined the project to operate the vehicles in real conditions. Partnerships between actors along the whole chain and present within a common industrial basin are key for these types of projects to emerge.

How can H2Haul/HyAMMED help optimise hydrogen refuelling stations?

H2Haul/HyAMMED will demonstrate, in real conditions, the first operations of hydrogen trucks in France. It will show that hydrogen technology is safe, reliable and is one of the solutions to decarbonise the heavy-duty transport sector. The experience from H2Haul will help us to keep developing hydrogen technologies and further improve user experience.

What are some of the unique challenges for hydrogen refuelling when compared with diesel? 

Challenges are of different nature. First, the regulation is not fully ready. For example, some of the permitting procedures need to be simplified to ease the deployment of hydrogen stations. Second, for logistics companies, the transition from diesel to hydrogen brings a new paradigm. Diesel was used as a swiss knife for all operations. Now, with the use of new energies such as hydrogen, they need to adapt their operations to the specificities of each solution.

Can existing diesel refuelling stations be easily retrofitted so they supply hydrogen?

Yes, completely. More generally, we see hydrogen as one of the solutions to decarbonise the transport sector, but not the only one. Hence, the future is multi-energy stations, that are able to provide different energies to the vehicles, including hydrogen. It is also a way to optimise land usage, especially in logistics areas where land availability is scarce.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We are really glad to be a member of the H2Haul program and to contribute to the emergence of the heavy duty hydrogen technology and corridors in Europe.