Gliding along the lakeside of Lausanne, the IOC’s new hydrogen-powered vehicles may be virtually silent. But together with their metallic refuelling station, they are creating quite a buzz in the Olympic capital.
Also known as fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) the eight Mirais arrived at Olympic House – the IOC headquarters – in June last year, provided by Worldwide Olympic Partner Toyota. Just next door, the region’s first hydrogen production and refuelling station, powered by renewable energy, has been supplying hydrogen to the IOC fleet since December 2019.
“Besides reducing our carbon emissions, we saw the hydrogen vehicles and fuelling station as a way to advance a discussion about sustainability and strengthen the role of the Olympic Movement to inspire positive change,” says IOC Director for Corporate and Sustainable Development Marie Sallois.
Jose Diamantino, the IOC’s fleet manager for over 20 years, experiences first-hand how the IOC’s move to hydrogen has brought so much more than a new mode of transport.
“Driving around the area, nearly every day, I get stopped and asked questions about the station, our vehicles and the technology behind it,” he says.
But what really matters, he adds, is that people, young and old, are curious to find out about the philosophy behind it: “One moment we talk about fuel efficiency and the other about the future of the planet.”
Clean, cheap and easy to store, hydrogen accounts for about 2 per cent of global energy use. But the figure is set to climb as the world mobilises to address climate change by replacing fossil fuels with cleaner energy sources. The IOC’s hydrogen will be produced using renewable electricity, mostly from hydropower
The transition to hydrogen is an integral part of the IOC’s commitment to sustainability, one of the three pillars of the IOC’s strategic roadmap, Olympic Agenda 2020.
The Lausanne fleet may not be as big as that planned for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where the official fleet will be a mix of hydrogen and hybrid vehicles, also supplied by Worldwide Olympic Partner Toyota. It is, however, an important statement and source of inspiration for companies and organisations in the region.
Hubert Girault, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), the university which advised the IOC on hydrogen, says the IOC’s move to power its vehicle fleet with hydrogen is an important step forward towards raising awareness about renewable energy and sustainability.
“It certainly was a pioneering move and a big statement to install a hydrogen fuelling station for a private fleet,” he says. “The IOC made a huge impact, and now big companies in the area are considering changing to hydrogen as well.”
It is expected that a hydrogen refuelling pump of a larger capacity will open later this year at a public service-station near Olympic House, allowing the IOC to power a larger pool of vehicles. The IOC’s own fuelling station will then be donated to the EPFL, advancing the university’s hydrogen research projects and creating further interest in hydrogen energy locally.
The interest was certainly felt at a conference organised earlier this month by Innovaud, a local association promoting technology and innovation in the Canton of Vaud. The event, which was hosted at Olympic House, brought together companies, academics and Swiss authorities to learn about the latest trends and local capabilities related to hydrogen production, storage and distribution, as well as the IOC’s experience with hydrogen mobility.
“As an early adopter of hydrogen, the IOC can have a massive impact on what others do, in the region, and of course around the world,” said Jean-Mi Stauffer, the conference organiser.