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Image courtesy of Hyzon Motors

The huge multinational oil-and-gas company Total SE is investing in the hydrogen fuel cell truck and bus startup Hyzon Motors, the companies announced this morning.

Why it matters: It's the latest sign of increasing interest in hydrogen-powered heavy vehicles amid moves by startups and legacy automakers alike. It also shows how European-headquartered oil giants are boosting their alternative energy portfolios, even though hydrocarbons remain their dominant business lines.

  • Total's VC arm is leading the funding round that also has participation from Ascent Hydrogen Fund, Hydrogen Capital Partners and Audacy Ventures Ltd.

Yes, but: The size of the investments in Hyzon were not disclosed, but Bloomberg reports that they're relatively small. The funding round "totaled more than $15 million and valued Hyzon at around $200 million," it reports.

What's next: Hyzon says it plans to deliver around 5,000 fuel cell trucks and buses over the next three years from its facilities in North America, Europe and Asia. The company, a spinoff out of Singapore-based Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, says it currently has roughly 400 trucks and buses on the roads.

The big picture: Hydrogen-powered heavy vehicles are having a moment even though it remains a small market with plenty of barriers to major growth. Two recent examples...

  • Hyundai delivered its first XCIENT fuel cell heavy-duty trucks to European customers this week and announced plans to bring hydrogen-powered trucks to the U.S. and China, too. It plans to build up to 2,000 trucks a year starting in 2021.
  • Toyota and its subsidiary Hino said Monday they're developing a fuel cell heavy truck for the North American market, with a demonstration model arriving in the first half of 2021.

The intrigue: It has been a busy stretch for Total's growing cleantech portfolio and investments.

  • This week Total made its latest renewables investment by taking a 20% stake in a floating wind project off the French coast.
  • Last week Total announced the acquisition of Blue Point London, the city's largest EV charging network.

Go deeper

Sep 25, 2020 - Economy & Business

Eyeing the end of gas-powered cars

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Gasoline-powered cars may be going the way of the woolly mammoth, even if it will take decades to replace them and seems hard to fathom today.

The big picture: Internal combustion engines (ICEs) have powered automobiles for more than 100 years. But the shift to electric vehicles, slow to materialize at first, is now accelerating due to tightening government policies, falling costs and a societal reckoning about climate change.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.

More surprises await scientists at Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier"

Cliffs along the edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Photo: James Yungel/NASA

Researchers like David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, are in a race to understand the fate of a massive glacier in West Antarctica that has earned a disquieting nickname: "The Doomsday Glacier."

Why it matters: Studies show the Thwaites Glacier (its official name) could already be on an irreversible course to melt during the next several decades to centuries, freeing up enough inland ice to raise global sea levels by at least several feet.