Details of Renault’s Scénic Vision concept car were presented to the public on May 19, 2022. The firm’s idea of developing a passenger vehicle using hydrogen technology is not unique.
Benjamin Girette | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Renault has unveiled details of an electric-hydrogen hybrid concept car, with the French automaker describing hydrogen technology as “one of the options to make electric vehicles more practical”.
Renault’s Scenic Vision design incorporates a hydrogen engine, electric motor, battery, fuel cell and hydrogen tank. The 2.5 kilogram tank is located at the front of the vehicle and, according to Renault, it would take around five minutes to fill.
According to a document released Thursday that outlines the concept, Scenic Vision’s 40 kilowatt-hour battery is recyclable and will be produced in a factory in France by 2024.
In a statement, Gilles Vidal, design director at Renault, said the concept “prefigures the exterior design of the new 100% electric Scénic model for 2024”. The company said the electric-hydrogen powertrain was “part of a longer term vision, beyond 2030”.
The general idea is that the Scenic Vision’s hydrogen fuel cell would help extend the vehicle’s range on long trips. “In 2030 and beyond, once the network of hydrogen stations is large enough, you will be able to travel up to 800 km [a little over 497 miles] … without stopping to recharge the battery”, specifies Renault.
Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier”, hydrogen has a diverse range of applications and can be deployed in a wide range of industries.
It can be produced in several ways. One method is to use electrolysis, with an electric current splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen.
If the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar, some call it green or renewable hydrogen.
It is envisaged that Renault’s hybrid will use green hydrogen, although the vast majority of hydrogen production is currently based on fossil fuels.
Renault’s electric-hydrogen concept illustrates how automakers are looking to find ways to develop low- or zero-emission offerings that can compete with the range of petrol and diesel vehicles.
“Several complementary systems to electric motors are being explored today to meet the demands of long-distance driving,” Renault said. “Hydrogen technology is one of the options to make electric vehicles more practical.”
In the field of hydrogen mobility, the Renault group has already created a joint venture with Plug Power called Hyvia. It focuses among other things on hydrogen fuel cells in light commercial vehicles and the deployment of hydrogen charging facilities.
Renault’s idea of developing a passenger vehicle using hydrogen technology is not unique.
Toyota, for example, began work on developing fuel cell vehicles – where hydrogen from a tank mixes with oxygen, producing electricity – in 1992. In 2014, the Japanese company launched the Mirai, a hydrogen fuel cell sedan.
Other big companies like Hyundai and BMW are also looking at hydrogen, along with smaller companies like UK-based Riversimple.
While the companies above are investigating the potential of hydrogen, some auto industry figures aren’t so sure. In February 2021, Herbert Diess, the CEO of the German Volkswagen group, spoke out on the subject. “It’s time for politicians to accept science,” he tweeted.
“Green hydrogen is needed for steel, chemicals, aerospace… and shouldn’t end up in cars. Far too expensive, inefficient, slow and difficult to deploy and transport. After all: no of #hydrogen cars in sight.”
Despite Thursday’s unveiling of the Scenic Vision concept, even Renault CEO Luca de Meo would seem cautious when it comes to talking about the prospects for hydrogen, according to comments published by Autocar.
Elsewhere, in February 2020, the Brussels-based Transport and Environment campaign group hammered home how much competition hydrogen would face in the transport sector.
T&E argued that green hydrogen would not only have to “compete with gray and blue hydrogen”, which is produced from fossil fuels. “It will compete with gasoline, diesel, marine fuel oil, kerosene and, of course, electricity,” T&E said.
“Wherever batteries are a practical solution – cars, vans, city, regional and perhaps long-haul trucks, ferries – hydrogen will face an uphill battle due to lower efficiency and, therefore, lower costs. much higher fuel costs.”