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  • Writer's pictureHY-Plug France

La Gazette de Monaco: the birth of HY-Plug

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Last September, Délia KRIEL, a journalist with "La Gazette de Monaco", interviewed Camille, our founder, about her career and the birth of HY-Plug.

Thank you very much for this article!

"Camille Lopez, founder of Hy-Plug, has energy to spare

A graduate of the International University of Monaco, the young woman launched her consultancy in May 2021 in France with the aim of changing the way ships are powered in order to reduce their environmental impact. With her start-up, she is taking part in her first Monaco Yacht Show (MYS) and will be speaking at a conference on the regulatory framework for fuelling boats with hydrogen gas. Whether it's hydrogen, electricity, biofuel or hybridisation, this entrepreneur, driven by the maritime energy transition, offers an overview of existing solutions.

This Six-Fournaise grew up "with her feet on a boat". Very comfortable at sea, she collects various licences and has always had a love of the open sea, having witnessed maritime pollution on several occasions. A keen horse-rider and motor-sports enthusiast, it was her father who taught her from an early age "the inner workings of engines and everything else that can be found on a vehicle, as on a boat". It was in the car industry that she gained professional experience after completing her DUT in marketing techniques. At the head office of a major brand, Camille Lopez manages a compensation budget for customers waiting for their cars to be delivered late. Although she is learning a great deal, the young woman does not identify with certain values. "We think about what suits the suppliers, not the customers. I like to please people and add value.

Connecting yachting professionals

With this initial experience under her belt, the student went on to do her Master's 2 in International Management at the IUM and heard about the Mark Challenge, "a business plan competition combining luxury and innovation". A competitor at heart, she decided to give it a go. "I thought I'd take a look at what other boats were doing. I spent several months contacting suppliers, including Hynova Yachts, then Monaco Maritime Affairs, boat builders, technology suppliers, energy providers who make hydrogen or green electricity, brokers... What emerged from this benchmark was that all these yachting players had no links between them", she sums up. Winner of two awards, the entrepreneur realised that there was "a niche in a niche market". Hy-Plug was born. "As I have commercial skills, I launched my consulting firm, but I'm never a business introducer! I work for the end customer. Let's take a concrete example: OceanCo wants to build a yacht and doesn't necessarily have an in-house unit dedicated 100% to hydrogen and electric power. I'll be able to act as a consultant to help its team find solutions on the market that are best suited to the technical constraints of the boat and that are more durable than current engines", she explains.

Hydrogen conference at the Monaco Yacht Show

Although she has already "stored up more than 150 suppliers", Camille Lopez remains firm on one point: "I in no way want to be likened to a consultant doing greenwashing. I've turned down contracts that went in that direction. I don't want to offer window-dressing solutions with no environmental dimension behind them [...] I never promote one energy solution more than another out of a concern for fairness and partiality", she assures us, adding that she is working mainly on three of them: hydrogen, electricity and biofuels. Solicited for her expertise, she will be taking part in a conference on the regulatory framework for fuelling ships with gaseous hydrogen at the MYS Sustainability Hub Innovation this Friday at 12.30pm. The specialist in these subjects has agreed to talk about certain solutions: "There are trends depending on the size of the boat. On small boats, between 15 and 25 metres, we tend to talk about gaseous hydrogen. As soon as we talk about larger yachts, we're more interested in liquid hydrogen, for reasons of energy density, but liquid hydrogen has temperature constraints in terms of storage. So it's more complex to install, but it gives greater autonomy and saves space on the boat".

Electric batteries regenerated up to ten times

Hydrogen is also used in combustion engines. Suppliers are currently in the process of "marinising" these engines, i.e. making them watertight, so that they can be adapted to the marine environment and in particular to the constraints of salinity and corrosion. "This hybridisation makes no difference to the environment if the boat remains in diesel mode, but as soon as it can run on green hydrogen, even 10% of the time, it's a first coherent step forward. We're not going to revolutionise things in the very short term, but these are the first steps," says Camille Lopez. Pragmatic on the subject, she refers to electric power, which is "much more widespread" and where the innovation comes from the energy density of the batteries and the components used. "The crux of the matter is to reduce the environmental impact of battery manufacture to make it as sustainable as possible. If we don't pollute at the moment we start the boat, upstream and downstream, we're doing ten times worse than an internal combustion engine, so it's debatable", she argues. Today, some brands offer to buy batteries from car manufacturers to regenerate them and give them a second life. This protocol, which lasts a few weeks, can restore a battery's capacity to 95% or even 100%. "These brands are capable of regenerating these batteries up to ten times, reselling them at a lower price to the customer and thus avoiding the costs (financial and environmental, editor's note) of manufacturing another battery," sums up the entrepreneur.

Biofuels, ammonia and methanol

Finally, biofuels. "There's not really any need to change the engine, but where we're reaching the limits is that we're making them from wheat fields, and therefore from foodstuffs. On the other hand, there are suppliers who make biofuels from waste, i.e. cashew nut shells or animal fats, which can be used instead of being burnt". But there are limits to this solution. "We wouldn't be able to supply an entire park with biofuel," she assures us. Two complementary energies are being studied for cruise ships, sea freight or yachts over 50 metres: ammonia and methanol, which are still the most widely considered options. At the moment, however, "there is no one solution that is more proven than another. The market is still in its infancy", says Camille Lopez. Competing in the JCEM business competition with Hy-Plug, the curious and determined young woman has her sights set on creating a second entity on Monegasque soil in 2023. A real powerhouse!"

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