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PARIS (Reuters)

A French start-up has become the first company to start factory production of hydrogen-powered bicycles for use in corporate or municipal fleets

Pragma Industries, which is based in Biarritz, France and makes fuel cells for military use, has sold some 60 hydrogen-powered bikes to French municipalities including Saint Lo, Cherbourg, Chambery and Bayonne.

 

Pierre Forte, founder and CEO of Pragma Insdustries, checks an Alpha bike, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell at their factory in Biarritz
Pierre Forte, founder and CEO of Pragma Insdustries, checks an Alpha bike, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell at their factory in Biarritz, France, January 15, 2018. Picture taken January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

 

At about 7,500 euros per bike, and at least 30,000 euros for a charging station, the bikes are too expensive for the consumer market, but Pragma is working to cut that to 5,000 euros, which would bring their price in line with premium electric bikes.

“Many others have made hydrogen bike prototypes, but we are the first to move to series production,” said founder and chief executive Pierre Forte.

 

An employee holds an hydrogen fuel battery of an Alpha bike, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz
An employee holds an hydrogen fuel battery of an Alpha bike, first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz, France, January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

 

The firm’s Alpha bike runs for about 100 km (62 miles) on a two-litre tank of hydrogen, a range similar to an electric bike, but a refill takes only minutes while e-bikes take hours to charge. One kilo of hydrogen holds about 600 times more energy than a one-kilo lithium battery.

 

An Alpha bike, first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell, is displayed at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz
An Alpha bike, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell, is displayed at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz, France, January 15, 2018. Picture taken January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

 

Pragma also sells refueling stations that produce hydrogen through the electrolysis of water as well cheaper tank-based stations.

The bikes, which look and ride the same as any normal bicycle, are aimed at bike-rental operators, delivery companies, and municipal or corporate bicycle fleets with intensive usage.

 

The logo of new Velib' Metropole self-service public bike by the Smovengo are seen on bicycles at a distribution point in Paris
The logo of new Velib’ Metropole self-service public bike by the Smovengo are seen on bicycles at a distribution point in Paris, France January 8, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

 

Pragma, which produced 100 hydrogen bikes last year, plans to manufacture 150 this year. It has received demand from Norway, the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany, Forte said.

With bike’s range limited by the size of the hydrogen tank, Pragma is also working on a bike that will convert plain water into hydrogen aboard the bike, using a chemical reaction between water and aluminum or magnesium powder to produce hydrogen gas.

“In the next two-three years we want to enter the consumer market and massively increase the scale of our operations,” said Forte.

 

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Luke Baker, William Maclean)

 

 

Pragma industries logo is pictured on an Alpha bike, first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell in Biarritz
The Pragma industries logo is pictured on an Alpha bike, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell in Biarritz, France, January 15, 2018. Picture taken January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

 

Detail of an Alpha bike, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell, is displayed at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz
Detail of the Alpha bike, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell, is displayed at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz, France, January 15, 2018. Picture taken January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

 

Detail of an Alpha bike, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell, is displayed at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz
Detail of an Alpha bike, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell, is displayed at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz, France, January 15, 2018. Picture taken January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

 

An employee works around Alpha bikes, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz
An employee works around Alpha bikes, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz, France, January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

 

Pierre Forte and Alexandre Blanc check an Alpha bike, the first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz
Pierre Forte (R), founder and CEO of Pragma Industries, and Alexandre Blanc (L), operations director, check an Alpha bike, first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz, France, January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

 

Alpha bikes, first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell, are displayed at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz
Alpha bikes, first industrialised bicycle to use a hydrogen fuel cell, are displayed at the Pragma Industries factory in Biarritz, France, January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
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