Policies and deployment for Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles an assessment of the Normandy project

Significance Statement

Road transport is estimated to contribute to approximately a fifth of the total European Union carbon dioxide emissions. At the moment, the emissions are 20% higher than they were in the 1990s, and this figure is still rising. This has increased concerns for climate change but also for better air quality in urban areas. Indeed (CO, NOx, SO2, fine particles, etc.) are directly harmful to health, not to mention problems arising from congestion (loss of time and money, accidents, noise pollution, etc.).

The fuel cell technology has several advantages over battery technology in this respect: longer range and quicker refueling time. But the manufacturing cost of producing H2-vehicles remains prohibitive. In a previous study of one of  the author (see Creti et al., 2017) it was shown that though the time to market may be around 2040 to 2050 it is still worthwhile to launch the deployment early, say before 2020, due to the large learning-by-doing that can be reasonably expected from cumulated production.

In the present study Julien Brunet and Jean-Pierre Ponssard (CNRS and Ecole Polytechnique) drew the first lessons from the Normandy project known as the EasHyMob project, a significant pilot program in France. The Normandy hydrogen plan has been designed in terms of fuel cell electric vehicles to substitute a diesel Kangoo by an electric Kangoo ZE enhanced with a fuel cell range extender. This hybrid system delivers a vehicle with a range of 300km (instead of 120km with a battery) for a lower cost than a full hydrogen cell. The benefit of the fuel range extender is particularly focal for public fleets that cover long distances. The benefit over the diesel Kangoo is in terms of low carbon dioxide emissions as well as other indirect aspects of health awareness, low vibration and comfortable driving. The research work is published in International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.

The authors developed two scenarios: the first one is a direct extrapolation of the current plan while the second one corresponds to a much quicker deployment. The second scenario would possibly achieve economic sustainability in 2030 or even earlier if circumstances favor. The total cost of ownership of the hydrogen Kangoo would need to be reduced by about half along this path. Through an in-depth analysis of the value chain, the authors realized that two requirements would be essential to achieve this goal.

The first requirement assumes a certain level of learning by doing and spill overs in the manufacturing of the hydrogen Kangoo to permit about 40% drop of the purchase price of the Hydrogen Kangoo vehicle. This would only be consistent with a success of the fuel cell electric vehicle deployment in a geographic not only in Normandy but also throughout Europe and deployment across a wide range of hydrogen vehicles including buses, trucks and sedan. To realize this, high power vehicles will have an important role.

The second requirement concerns a close coordination between hydrogen production and its delivery through refilling stations to take advantage of the expected increased volume of hydrogen consumption and manage the progressive substitution of SMR by electrolysis. More specifically we evaluated the two optimal designs (associated with centralized production versus on site production) that should constitute the successive stages of the optimal path for infrastructure. A successful coordination strategy would allow for a 75% decrease of the hydrogen fuel cost.

This paper is part of a major research program on the energy transition for land transportation within the Energy and Prosperity Chair, founded in 2015. The aim of this Chair is to assess the sectoral and macroeconomic impact of such policies and to identify the institutional regulatory framework most favourable to their funding by the public and private sectors.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles assessment Normandy project- Advances in Engineering

About the author

Jean-Pierre Ponssard

JP Ponssard is a CNRS Emeritus Research Scientist, affiliated to the Department of Economics and CREST research center at Ecole Polytechnique, France. He is associate Research Fellow at Louis Bachelier Institute, CIRANO and CESifo. His fields of specialization concern: economics of environment, industrial organization and game theory.

Since 2015 he co-leads the chair Energy and Prosperity in coordination with Gaël Giraud. This chair develops several research programs to promote the energy transition based on both macro and sector analysis. A special focus has been on innovations in land transportation.

Jean-Pierre Ponssard recent research on economics of environment has been published in Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Journal of The Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, Review of Agricultural and Environmental Studies, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Resource and Energy Economics, Environmental and Resource Economics, Climate Policy, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. He received his PhD in engineering economic systems from Stanford University in 1972, and had earlier graduated from Ecole Polytechnique.

 Personal web site    

About the author

Julien Brunet

After graduating from the Ecole Supérieure de Physique et Chimie Industrielles (ESPCI) in Paris, Julien Brunet took a specialized Master’s Degree at the École Polytechnique on renewable energies (Master REST). During this Master’s, he worked in the Economics Department on the value chain of hydrogen mobility. He is now Director of Hydrogen Mobility Development at Symbio.


Brunet a, J.-P. Ponssard. Policies and deployment for Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles an assessment of the Normandy project. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 42 (2017) 4276-4284.

Go To International Journal of Hydrogen Energy

Further reading

For a presentation of the the EasHyMob project see http://www.ehd2020.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Presentation-EAS-HyMob-16-July-2015.pdf.

Creti, A. Kotelnikova, G. Meunier and J.-P. Ponssard. Defining the Abatement Cost in Presence of Learningby-doing: Application to the Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle, Environmental and Resource Economics, forthcoming.

See the following links for details about the research program on the energy transition in land transportation http://www.louisbachelier.org/mobilite-transition-energetique/ and for general information on the Chair http://www.chair-energy-prosperity.org/en/

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