I happen to be living in the middle of the geographical zone where the two major partners in this fascinating technological adventure have their headquarters. The hydrogen fuel cell has been created by a company named Symbio FCell in Grenoble, founded by Fabio Ferrari, seen in the above photo. [Click here to visit their website] The hydrogen consumed by the cell is produced by the French McPhy company, located in the tiny village of La Motte-Fanjas in the Drôme department, and directed by Pascal Mauberger. I drive past their neat and tidy little production plant every time I go to Valence. [Click here to visit their website.]
It’s interesting to note that these two high-tech businessmen—Ferrari and Mauberger—were recently invited along to the Elysée Palace for a luncheon with François Hollande in the context of planning for the forthcoming COP 21 conference in Paris.
Finally, another prestigious French company, Air Liquide, is playing a downstream role in this fabulous project as the creator of hydrogen refueling stations such as the one seen in the first two photos, located at Sassenage, between Grenoble and the Vercors mountain range.
Readers might be wondering why several major partners in this Renault Kangoo ZE-H2 adventure happen to be located, as I’ve pointed out, in my corner of the Dauphiné region. One significant explanation is the existence, on the outskirts of Grenoble, of a laboratory of the CNRS [Centre national de la recherche scientifique, France’s national science-research organization] that bears the name of Louis Néel [1904-2000], who was awarded a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1970 (along with the Swedish astrophysicist Hannes Alfvén). The fundamental research work that is now being exploited by McPhy, concerning the storage of hydrogen in the solid form of magnesium hydride, originated in the laboratory of Daniel Fruchart at the Institut Néel. McPhy was also able to take advantage of the industrial expertise of Michel Jehan, in charge of a company at Romans, MCP Technologies, that had become a specialist in the processing of magnesium. So, the “green hydrogen” of McPhy (or is it rather blue?) provides an exemplary illustration of synergy between basic research and high-tech industrial partners.