Electrolyser makers McPhy, Genvia, Elogen and John Cockerill will build new gigafactories in France after being allocated millions of euros of public funding as part of a €2.1bn ($2.05bn) state-aid push to make the country “the world leader in carbon-free hydrogen”.

The money will be split between ten French hydrogen companies, with a particular focus on electrolysis and equipment for commercial fuel-cell trucks (details below), Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne revealed in a speech this week.

All four electrolyser makers had previously announced their intentions to build electrolyser gigafactories in the country, but none had taken final investment decisions (FIDs). These FIDs are now expected to made shortly, once contracts for the funding have been signed with the French public investment bank Bpifrance.

McPhy, which produces high-pressure alkaline electrolysers, says it will receive €114m of state aid, while PEM electrolyser maker Elogen has revealed it will get €86m.

Genvia — a joint venture between private companies and public authorities that plans to build a solid-oxide electrolyser gigafactory by 2025 — and Belgian-French multi-sector manufacturer John Cockerill, which also produces pressurised alkaline electrolysers, have yet to make public comments on the funding.

The €2.1bn of state aid was approved by the European Commission in July after a total of 41 hydrogen projects across the EU were declared to be Important Projects of Common Interest as part of its so-called Hy2Tech programme.

Recipients of the €2.1bn will invest a total of €3.2bn of private money in their projects, creating nearly 5,200 direct jobs, according to the prime minister.

In a speech in northern France on Wednesday, Borne said that the French state aims to “mobilise” €9bn between 2020 and 2030 to make France “the leader in carbon-free hydrogen”.

“We will focus on two sectors as a priority: electrolysis and hydrogen equipment for heavy and professional [ie, commercial] mobility.

“For two years, our hydrogen strategy has been deployed. We started by investing in the most critical tools to lower costs and gain our technological and energy sovereignty. I am thinking of electrolysers, fuel cells, tanks, materials. It is by mastering them that we will be able to decarbonise our economy and conquer global markets.”

She added that France had also launched hydrogen pilot projects to help decarbonise steel, chemicals, glassmaking and oil refining, as well as road, rail and air transport.

“As soon as we have started lowering costs… we can move on to a new stage in our strategy: the massive deployment of hydrogen, in all sectors and throughout the country.

“These [€2.1bn of] investments are just the beginning.”

Other recipients

The state-aid funding will also be used to build fuel cells and hydrogen tanks for vehicles, trains and other hydrogen vehicles, and the materials needed to produce such equipment.

The other six recipients of the funding are:

  • Alstom, which builds hydrogen-powered trains;
  • Chemicals and advanced-materials company Arkema;
  • Car parts supplier Forvia;
  • Hydrogen mobility subsidiary Hyvia (a joint venture between Renault Group and US electrolyser and fuel-cell maker Plug Power;
  • Plastic Omnium, a supplier of plastics to the auto industry; and
  • Symbio, a joint venture between Forvia subsidiary Faurecia and tyre maker Michelin, which supplies fuel-cell kits for road vehicles.

Plastic Omnium is the only one of the six to have revealed the size of its grant — €74m, which will be used to produce hydrogen tanks for fuel-cell vehicles.

More state funding to come

The European Commission unveiled a second wave of hydrogen IPCEIs last week, under the so-called Hy2Use programme — split between infrastructure projects and industrial applications — giving member states the go-ahead to provide a further €5.2bn of public funding.

The French government will therefore give money to Air Liquide for an unspecified project, and to MassHylia, a 40MW solar-powered green hydrogen project in southern France being developed by Engie and TotalEnergies.

“A dozen French projects remain in the running for a third and a fourth wave [of hydrogen IPCEIs] centred around production infrastructures and hydrogen mobility,” Borne pointed out.

“We will ensure that these projects benefit from the same terms of support. No project will be left behind.”