Toyota-backed Paris venture targets 10,000 hydrogen taxis by 2024

A French company plans to persuade 10,000 Paris taxi drivers to switch to hydrogen-powered cars by the time the Olympic Games come to town in three years.

HysetCo., a venture part-owned by Toyota Motor Corp. and Air Liquide SA, has raised 80 million euros ($97 million) to help hasten the shift, it said Tuesday. When Paris hosts the world’s top sporting showcase in summer 2024, the city will already be rid of diesel cars, ahead of a ban on gasoline cars from 2030.

HysetCo., whose other owners include the Societe du Taxi Electrique Parisien, has used the money raised – mostly through convertible debt – to buy Paris taxi operator Slota Group, it said in a statement. It will replace most or all of Slota’s 600 diesel taxis by the end of the year with Mirai hydrogen-powered cars made by Toyota, according to Societe’s chairman, Mathieu Gardies.

Societe already operates about 100 hydrogen fuel-cell taxis under the Hype brand in Paris. Such models appeal to taxi and ride-hail drivers because they travel as far as gasoline cars and take only three minutes to fill, just a fraction of the time needed to charge battery vehicles, Gardies said in an interview.

While many carmakers are now spending vast sums to develop battery vehicles, Toyota is one of just a few to invest heavily in hydrogen-powered cars, which remain more costly to produce. Taxi-fleet deals such as this are one way for manufacturers to add sales and raise consumer awareness of the cars, which emit only water vapor.

HysetCo.’s target to shift 10,000 taxi drivers – a fifth of the total in the greater Paris region – to hydrogen cars by the end of 2024 is built on incentives including ready access to vehicles, hydrogen and customers, Gardies said. Running costs for these drivers would be similar to those of gasoline or diesel cars, he said.

Expansion Plans

To support a growing fleet of hydrogen vehicles, HysetCo. plans to build two refueling stations in the Paris area in 2021, adding to the three already operating, and targets about 20 stations by the end of 2024. It also intends to replicate the hydrogen push in other cities as an increasing number adopt stricter pollution curbs.

Transport in urban centers emits “a lot of carbon dioxide and particulates,” said Pierre-Etienne Franc, head of hydrogen at Air Liquide, the world’s No. 2 maker of industrial gases. Various cities from California to the U.K. “want to get rid of diesel transport,” and “we’re preparing the must-have solution.”

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