Tesla's success has sparked many vocations. But today, no one seems to be able to catch up with the lead the California-based manufacturer has made in the field of electric cars. This is why some are already seeing the next step: hydrogen. With the recently announced plans to develop the industry, the announcement of the founding of Hopium could not have come at a better time. This new French company intends to become the equivalent of Tesla, in the field of fuel cell cars.
"We have been working on the project for two years. Today, it has reached sufficient maturity for us to communicate on its launch," explains Olivier Lombard. For this 29-year-old pilot, founder of Hopium, hydrogen is not quite a discovery: he participated in the development of the LMPH2G prototype, which shot a few days ago at the opening of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Features close to a Tesla Model S
Like Tesla, Hopium intends to attack the market from above. The brand's first model, the Māchina unveiled today, has a size equivalent to that of a Model S. The same is true of the price, expected between 110,000 € and 140,000 €. It may sound expensive in absolute terms, but it is directly in line with the competition. Because the Hopium Māchina claims first-rate performances, with an advertised power of 500 hp, and a range of 800 km, in line with the density of the hydrogen distribution network, which is necessarily lower than that of the gas stations until the car is marketed. For now, no performance figures or technical details have been announced, we will have to wait a few months.
This generous power poses a real technical challenge. Because, currently, none of the few hydrogen models on the market offers a fuel cell capable of delivering more than 160 hp. The Māchina will therefore have a buffer battery (not rechargeable on the mains), located between the fuel cell and the electric motor, capable of responding to power peaks during acceleration. "Our goal is not to consider the fuel cell as a range extender, but to push to the maximum the development of increasingly powerful cells, so that the battery is, in the long term, no longer essential", hopes Olivier Lombard. This will require real technological progress in this area, especially in terms of miniaturization. Because today, the fuel cell of a Hyundai Nexo is the size of a petrol V6, and produces only 130 hp.
Marketing in 2026
Performance and driving pleasure are important points in the specifications of the Hopium Māchina. "We must reconnect with the pride of owning a car. It must be a showcase for technology, be a positive communication vector around hydrogen. Driving pleasure is important, as is style, the aim of which is clearly to seduce ", continues Olivier Lombard. The lines, a mix of Audi A7, Porsche Taycan and Fisker Karma, were drawn by a designer who previously worked for Porsche, Tesla and Lucid.
However, the Māchina will not only be centered on driving. Its designers intend to turn it into a "digital cocoon", with autonomous driving mode. For these interface and automation technologies, Hopium will use suppliers with experience in these technologies. The brand provides for several phases of financing, whether through the arrival of investors or an initial public offering, all for commercialization hoped for by 2026. Production will take place in a French factory, for forecast volumes, at least during the first few years, around 2,000 cars per year.