Hopium, the “Frenchy” who dreams of being a Tesla of hydrogen

A dark brunette wearing rings, bracelets, a sharp tattoo with his well-tailored suit, and, despite the hint of a beard, a youthful look. Very young. This is what the French Elon Musk of hydrogen looks like. Olivier Lombard, just 30 years old, is not a computer genius, but a pure product of car culture, a high-level racing driver (he was winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011 in the LMP2 category) , who intends to create a car brand from scratch.

The juvenile founding president of the automobile brand Hopium will present, in Paris, Thursday, June 17, his very first hydrogen super sedan, the Mãchina. The luxury machine will display 500 horsepower, 1,000 kilometers of autonomy in a single tank of hydrogen and will cost 120,000 euros. The moment is important for the future of Hopium and Mr. Lombard. It will be a question of validating a bet at 300 million euros – this is the amount of Hopium’s long-term financing need – which makes this young shoot a kind of Tesla of hydrogen, even if the prestigious name is never spoken.

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The Francilien, born not far from the Peugeot factory in Poissy (Yvelines), may have been fed motor oil, he firmly believes in the advantages of high-end “H2 mobility”, like the founder of Tesla believed in battery-powered cars before anyone else. “The ease of charging, three minutes instead of twenty minutes for an electric one, will be a decisive argument in favor of hydrogen”, argues the young boss, who was also a test pilot of an endurance racing prototype powered by this gas. It is therefore logical that Olivier Lombard personally supervised the development of the car. As for the design of the Mãchina, it was entrusted to a young automobile “couturier”, Félix Godard, who worked for Porsche and… for Tesla.

Between Paris, Montlhéry and Los Angeles

Hopium has global ambitions and dreams of being present in the three major potential hydrogen markets: Europe, Asia and the United States. To do this, it relies on a very studied technological and industrial organization. If the head office is located in the beautiful districts of Paris, close to the Elysée Palace, the development site is near the Linas-Montlhéry circuit (Essonne). As a guarantee of the industrial solidity of the project, it is the equipment manufacturer Plastic Omnium which will supply the hydrogen tank for the Mãchina. As for the digital research and development teams, which work in particular on blockchain technologies, they are based in Los Angeles.

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Despite this West Coast air, the comparison with Tesla obviously has its limits. It would probably be more relevant to make the analogy with the Californian company Hyperion, which is concocting an ultra-sporty hydrogen “hypercar”, a potential competitor of Hopium. Hopium is aiming for an altogether reasonable production of 8,000 vehicles per year by 2030, which has not prevented it from attracting several private business leaders, who in December 2020 accompanied its introduction on the Access market for start-ups. up from the Paris Stock Exchange.

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