To deal with pollution and traffic problems in Paris, Mathieu Gardies decided to launch an electric taxi company in the French capital in 2009. In 2015, when many of the first tests with battery electric vehicles had failed, the first hydrogen powered vehicles hit the market. Mathieu decided to bet on this new technology and launched Hype during the COP21: the first fleet of 100% hydrogen taxis.
There is a global consensus on the need to decarbonise the transport sector. However, the real debate is whether this challenge will be met. Without a doubt, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) – better known as hydrogen vehicles – will play a crucial role in the future of clean mobility, among other solutions.
Battery electric vehicles are not a good solution for taxis in Paris. Hydrogen taxis eliminate the need to stop the vehicle. It’s easier to tell a driver to go for hydrogen because it won’t change the way they work. In fact, hydrogen-powered vehicles have a huge advantage over their battery-powered electric counterparts: they can refuel in 3-5 minutes. They also have more range, up to 500 kilometers. These two characteristics make hydrogen a perfect solution for taxis.
However, hydrogen vehicles also have drawbacks that explain their low success: there are barely 11,000 hydrogen vehicles on the roads in the world.
One of them is its high price. Hyundai, Toyota and Honda are the major manufacturers of FCEVs, and most models are more expensive than internal combustion engines, while prices for hydrogen at stations are currently equivalent to those for fuel. However, Hype minimizes this inconvenience by sharing vehicles among multiple drivers. Through the intensive use of Hype vehicles, the company generates profits.
These operating profits make it possible to absorb part of the additional costs.
Most experts also believe that vehicle and hydrogen prices will fall as the industry expands.
Another issue that has slowed adoption of FCEVs: hydrogen stations. There are currently no more than 337 stations worldwide. On the other hand, drivers are always afraid to buy hydrogen vehicles due to the low number of stations, thus creating a vicious circle.
To respond to this problem, Mathieu created Hype in collaboration with Air Liquide, the French industrial leader in hydrogen. The Hype fleet guarantees sufficient demand for the 4 Air Liquide stations in and around Paris.
Four years after its creation, Hype has 110 taxis operating in Paris, making it the largest fleet in the world and announced that it would increase its fleet to 600 hydrogen vehicles by 2020, thanks to a recent partnership with Toyota. Since 2015, Hype taxis have accumulated 4 million kilometers, avoiding around 2 tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NOx).