Stellantis to sell hydrogen-powered commercial vans this year in Europe

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Stellantis NV on Wednesday said it will begin delivering light-commercial vans powered by hydrogen fuel cells before the end of year for customers in Europe looking for zero-emission long-range transportation.

Citroën, Opel and Peugeot — which do not sell in the United States — will lead in the deployment of the technology developed in France and Germany on their current medium electric van architectures. The transatlantic automaker will build the vans in Rüsselsheim, Germany. Stellantis later will examine extending the technology to its other brands, and possibly passenger vehicles, and expects the project to be profitable in the coming years.

Stellantis NV says it will begin delivering light-commercial vans powered by hydrogen fuel cells before the end of the year.

Although 83% of the company's commercial customers travel less than 125 miles per day on average, only 44% never drive more than 186 miles in a day, said Xavier Peugeot, senior vice president for Stellantis' light commercial vehicle business.

"There are still a share of customers who are keen to drive more than 300 kilometers (186 miles)," he said during a streamed discussion of the technology in Paris, "and we need to provide them with an additional and complementary answer, which is the purpose of the day."

The mid-power system is smaller than other competitors and matched with a large 10.5- kilowatt battery, said Frank Jordan, Stellantis' research and innovation director in Germany. The fuel cell system fits under the hood, a propulsion battery is replaced by three hydrogen tanks, and the battery fits under the front seats.

The van can support travel of roughly 250 miles, according to the company, but also has the capability to charge its battery and travel 31 miles alone on it if needed to link to the next hydrogen-fueling station. The powertrain also retains the more than 65 square feet of cargo capacity and 2,425 pounds of payload from the electric version.

(From left to right) Frank Jordan, Stellantis NV's research and innovation director in Germany; Carla Gohin, research innovation senior vice president; journalist Sandy Heribert; Xavier Peugeot, light commercial vehicle business unit senior vice president; and Dominique Sadoul, advanced powertrain and energy vice president, discuss the technology behind the transatlantic automaker's new hydrogen fuel cell vans.

The hydrogen vans can be refueled in three minutes, according to the company, addressing the slow charging speeds of electric vehicles. Hydrogen, however, is more expensive and will need mass scale to be cost-effective, though the smaller system helps. Peugeot declined to share the pricing on the new vans.

Hydrogen especially makes sense for larger vehicles, said Sam Abuelsamid, e-mobility analyst for market research firm Guidehouse Insights. It offers higher energy density, less weight, greater range and faster refueling time.

"The opportunity for doing passenger cars has probably passed," Abuelsamid adds. "We've made enough progress with batteries that it's more and more difficult to make the case of hydrogen because of the limited fueling infrastructure. Battery performance and cost is competitive with hydrogen."

Leading countries like Germany and France have 90 and 25 hydrogen fueling stations, respectively, Peugeot said, though the European Clean Energy Alliance has committed to investing into the ecosystem. France alone plans to invest more than $8 billion by 2030 in hydrogen, specifically its production and developing mobility, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, France's secretary of state for transport, said in a recorded video.

Faurecia SE and Symbio Inc. are supplying the hydrogen storage systems and fuel cell stacks for Stellantis' vans. The company introduced its medium electric van in October 2020 and has sold more than 7,500 units of the Citroën Jumpy, Peugeot Expert and Opel Vivaro, Peugeot said.

Stellantis NV is using the architecture of its medium electric vans for vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

General Motors Co. has its own Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cells and is commercializing the technology mostly for semi-trucks such as with Navistar International Corp. Those are expected to be available to customers in 2024. Toyota Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. are working on similar projects.

"Clearly, we are aiming to lead the race toward this hydrogen transition," said Carla Gohin, Stellantis research innovation senior vice president, "and Stellantis is just starting this new story, building this zero-emission transmission."

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble