Green hydrogen for off-road uses: four innovative projects in Atlantic France

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The transition towards a sustainable economy is driving major innovations, and green hydrogen is emerging as a key low-carbon energy vector. With a dedicated programme involving €100 million and a roadmap announced in 2020, Atlantic France has set itself up as a pioneer in the transition to green hydrogen in order to replace fossil fuels in transport, but also in off-road applications such as manufacturing, construction, and agriculture. Below are 4 examples of innovative hydrogen projects. 

The Atlantic France region is home to some fifty players involved in the development of the green hydrogen industry. Some of the examples of the transition, that is already taking place, are the installation of the first hydrogen stations, the commitment of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race (which is planning to organise a competition reserved for hydrogen-powered vehicles), and the many innovative projects led by the pioneer startup Lhyfe. But green hydrogen is also being used for interesting off-road projects in other sectors.

Manitou: a prototype of a telescopic forklift truck

The Ancenis-based company Manitou Group, a leader in rough terrain handling, is developing a hydrogen-powered telescopic forklift. The prototype received an award at the French Sustainable Industry Awards, which reflects Manitou’s commitment to innovation and sustainability. At the end of 2022, Manitou presented its hydrogen strategy and the first construction machine equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell, and a fork capable of carrying loads of up to 18 metres high on construction sites. 

The company, which invests €60 million a year in R&D, is expecting to use the prototype to test if there is a reduced operating time and to check the balance of the forklift, as hydrogen would give greater autonomy to electric-based machines. Manitou hopes to bring its hydrogen-powered forklift trucks to market in 2026.

Fetis and its Evol-E platform: transforming off-road mobility

Through its subsidiaries GeniWatt and Dintec, the Nantes-based Fetis Group is driving heavy mobility with green hydrogen gensets and the Evol-E technology platform. The company, which has more than 600 employees and a turnover of €160 million, promotes the integration of diesel engines in off-road and maritime applications. 

The Evol-E demonstrator allows hydrogen-powered solutions to be tested on sloping, slippery, dusty terrain and in all weather conditions. It is equipped with a fuel cell system. In addition, its ability to test sensors, cameras, and other equipment paves the way for advances in autonomy and self-guidance in off-road environments. This demonstrates how the company is addressing the issue of manpower shortages in machines that need it by bringing in mechanical solutions.

Vensys boosts its hydrogen offering with the acquisition of E-Néo

The Vensys Group was founded in Vendée in 1890. A specialist in electro-hydraulics and hydro-mechanics, the company manufactures machinery for a wide range of sectors: agriculture, public works, manufacturing, railways, environmental, etc.

In September, the group strengthened its position by taking on the activities of E-Néo, a startup that specialises in the field of vehicle retrofitting. This strategy underlines the group’s commitment to the energy transition, from the conception to the implementation of sustainable solutions. 

Charier: sustainable tractors for construction

The Nantes-based public works group Charier, founded in 1897, has 1800 employees and €348 million in sales was generated in 2022. The company has entered into a partnership with the startup e-Néo, which was recently acquired by the Vensys group (see above). 

The objective is to adapt one of its tractors to hydrogen propulsion and to test it at the company’s worksite in the port of La Turballe (Loire-Atlantique). Charier also intends to study the conversion of other vehicles.

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