Hydrogen gas (H2) can be used as fuel for cabs and other cars in Brussels without any problems. That is the conclusion reached by D’Ieteren’s Taxis Verts and Colruyt’s Virya Energy after a one-year pilot project involving more than 55 000 km of driving.
According to the two initiators, the zero-emission technology could, in the future, offer a golden mean between combustion engines and EVs.
“An easily deployable alternative”
The transport sector is responsible for 21,5% of CO2 emissions in Belgium. The pilot project and research by Virgo Energy and Taxis Verts, which started last September, should show that this figure can be much lower in the future. The very first hydrogen cab, a Toyota Mirai, was sent on Belgian roads for a year and compared with electric and/or combustion engines.
According to the researchers, H2 gas is an efficient and easily deployable alternative to diesel or electricity. The comparison was based on several parameters, including operating cost, carbon emissions, and ease of use.
Short charging time
The hydrogen cab deployed covered more than 55 000 kilometers in 2023. 2 700 passengers were transported by the hydrogen cab. The cab used more than 660 kilograms of hydrogen, which was produced locally from renewable electricity. For the same distance, a diesel vehicle would require about 11 tons of CO2. “The hydrogen cab can be recharged in less than 5 minutes and still have an autonomy of 470 km”, says Jérémie Lefebvre, project manager at Virya Energy.
According to Virya Energy and Taxis Verts, there is a need for hydrogen technology for cabs and cars. By 2030, all diesel vehicles must be banned from the Brussels Capital Region, but for cab companies, that deadline is as early as 2025. From then on, Brussels cabs will have to choose between hydrogen vehicles and EVs.
Competitive price needed
However, Virya Energy still noted some areas for improvement. Among them, it wants to further develop the network of Dats24 stations so that drivers can obtain very high pressure and pure hydrogen in multiple pumps. There is, for example, currently only one charging station around Brussels for hydrogen vehicles, located in Halle.
“Also, the price of hydrogen must be competitive; it is an economic condition”, says Lefebvre. Hydrogen is charged per kilo, and the average price for it is currently around 25 euros – up from 10 euros in April, at a six-month state of affairs. With that, a hydrogen car in practice drives 80 to 100 km. The hydrogen price is (still) exempt from excise taxes.
So, a diesel car is still slightly cheaper today if you don’t take the pollution factor into account. If you know that a car of the range Mercedes Class E consumes 6,1 l/100 km, at the current price of 1,997 €/l, you arrive at a price of 12 euros.
But a hydrogen car is 100% tax deductible as a company car, while most of the gasoline and diesel cars today have a tax deduction rate between 50% and 65%.
More hydrogen cabs are on the way
The plan now is to deploy 50 new hydrogen vehicles and about 100 electric cabs in Brussels. “But we are still waiting for the new permits from the region”, says Jonathan Guy, the CEO of Taxis Verts.
Taxi Verts is the largest cab platform in the Brussels Capital Region, accounting for a fleet of more than 1 000 drivers. Virya Energy is a holding company active in the development, financing, construction, and operation of renewable energy sources, with a focus on onshore wind energy. The main shareholder is the Colruyt Group, which founded the holding company in 2019 and owns a majority stake in the company with 60%