Stellantis: light utility vehicles running on hydrogen


The adage is that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The Stellantis group understood this well. In addition to 100% electric battery-powered solutions for certain Peugeot, Citroën and Opel vans, the group led by Carlos Tavares wants to launch light commercial vehicles equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell combined with a small conventional battery, believing that ‘Achieving carbon neutrality will only be possible by multiplying the solutions according to the missions assigned to the different types of vehicles. Would this combination of fuel cell and battery constitute the squaring of the circle of electric mobility?

Complementarity

Very clearly, electric mobility – whether it concerns private or professional users – is the “simplest” solution for meeting future environmental standards and achieving carbon neutrality. And battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are the main focus at the moment. But the pitfalls are numerous: weight of the batteries, limited autonomy, long recharging times, not to mention the recharging infrastructures.

At Stellantis, we therefore believe that an additional solution is necessary. While electric propulsion will also be involved, the second option will be to use a hydrogen fuel cell (FCEV). A technology that has 3 undeniable advantages: a range similar to thermal vehicles, absolute carbon neutrality (in use) since it only releases water vapor and a refueling time limited to a handful of minutes depending on the size of the tank (s).

In addition, two other advantages make this solution interesting: less on-board mass than that of a high-capacity battery pack and the possibility of adapting it to a specific platform for electric vehicles. It is indeed not too complicated to insert the constituent elements of a fuel cell in the space provided for the batteries.

Combined technologies

These utility vehicles will combine fuel track technology with a battery allowing cable charging and energy recovery of a conventional BEV. The best of both worlds ? To develop the two main elements – the fuel cell and the hydrogen storage system – Stellantis has entered into a strategic alliance with Faurecia and Symbio.

Technically, the fuel cell is used here as the main engine with sufficient power to drive the vehicle – on large axes at constant speed among others – while the conventional battery provides support at start-up or during the first kilometers to allow the fuel cell to operate in optimal conditions. In addition, the presence of the battery allows energy recovery during braking, optimizing energy efficiency.

Opportunity

Above all, developing hydrogen fuel cell LCVs represents a real opportunity given that the European Union has launched a major investment plan intended to support the development of technology, the production of green hydrogen and the implementation of a coherent and sufficient supply infrastructure. The latter being facilitated by the fact that it is easier to convert a traditional fossil fuel pump into a hydrogen pump than to install fast charging stations for BEVs.

400 km in 3 minutes

Stellantis will base these hydrogen LCVs on its intermediate range – Citroën Jumpy, Peugeot Expert and Opel Vivaro – which allows rapid technical adaptation while limiting investment and promoting integration into the current production process.

In terms of performance, the volumes and charging capacities should remain unchanged from the current electric versions while the range is announced at 400 km, so 50 km via the battery, and refueling for a full tank will only take 3 minutes. . Enough to ensure sufficient autonomy for real urban flexibility, peri-urban or even longer.

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