It’s going further downhill with the French hydrogen car fairy tale of racing pilot Olivier Lombard, the Hopium Māchina that once was called the ‘French Tesla of hydrogen’ by the former Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari. The Paris court granted the start-up a judicial recovery procedure for six months, eventually to be extended to twelve.
In a press release, Hopium says it found new funds to continue for 12 months on the development. “This procedure places the company under the protection of the Court by freezing all debts before July 19th. These will be repaid as part of the continuation plan that the Company intends to submit to the Court during the observation period.”
Disbelief with investors
The extra money came from investment partner Atlas Special Opportunities, extending a 10 million bond loan to 13,5 million euros. But contrary to Olivier Lombard’s belief this would allow him to continue, investors reacted with disbelief at the Paris Euronext Growth stock exchange, where the company’s shares’ value degraded by 16,9 % under 75 euro cents. Introduced at one euro in 2020, they skyrocketed to 42 euros in June 2021.
But Lombard remains optimistic: “This support will allow Hopium to continue the development of its hydrogen stack up to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 (demonstration of a prototype or system/subsystem model in a representative environment) by focusing its resources on the R&D plan to demonstrate the maturity of its proprietary technology and its ability to serve the mobility sectors.”
Selling fuel cell tech
Already in April, it became clear that the hydrogen dream car of the 32-year-old French racing driver was one step further away from becoming a reality by 2025, as the start-up was forced to find new money first by focusing on selling its state-of-the-art fuel cell technology to third parties.
Hopium splitting up into two entities, Hopium Technology, for marketing its technology to professionals like the transport and maritime sector, and Hopium Automotive, for the fuel cells for interested carmakers, with the Māchina as the ultimate demonstrator.
The final production fuel cell car should feature +500 hp, a top speed of 230 km/hour, 0-100 km/hour acceleration in under five seconds, and a range on the hydrogen of 1 000 km. In addition, the ascending fuselage and the kinetic grille are optimized for fuel cell system cooling and vehicle aerodynamics.
Félix Godard, a former designer at Porsche, Tesla, and Lucid, styled the sleek Māchina sedan. Godard learned the trade tricks successively at Porsche on the Mission E-project, the forerunner of the Taycan, worked on the Model 3 at Tesla, and the Air at Lucid Motors. He also made a passage at the autonomous vehicle company HYPR.
List price of €120 000
The Hopium Māchina prototype was shown for the first time to the general public at the Paris Motor Show in October 2022. At that time, Hopium signed a temporary order for 10 000 cars with Crédit Agricole Group’s subsidiary Agilauto.
The bank’s specialist in sales and financing of cars wanted to offer hydrogen-powered premium vehicles to its customers after production starts in 2025. Pre-ordering for the €120 000 Hopium Māchina is open for individuals at 656 euros on the website. That figure refers to the atomic wavelength of hydrogen.