Stellantis to Offer New Vans Pairing Hydrogen and Battery Power

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Stellantis NV’s new range of cargo vans running on both hydrogen and plug-in electric technology offer the promise of emitting only water vapor and refueling time on par with going to the gas station.

The medium-size commercial vehicles that will go on sale toward the end of the year operate with fuel cells and batteries for a driving range of more than 400 kilometers (249 miles) and fill up in roughly three minutes, according to a presentation March 31. The combined drivetrain on the Citroen Jumpy, Opel Vivaro and Peugeot Expert could be extended to passenger cars, the company said.

“It’s the best of both energies,” said Carla Gohin, senior vice president of research and innovation. The high cost of hydrogen technology is “clearly one of the challenges” that could be resolved through large production volumes, she added.

The carmaker formed from the merger between PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is joining a wave of manufacturers mapping out plans for commercial vehicles to run on hydrogen. The technology has been around for decades but been held back by prohibitive costs and the lack of infrastructure.

Germany has about 90 hydrogen refueling stations and France just 25, according to Stellantis.

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Governments in both countries are encouraging development of more stations as part of programs to limit carbon emissions. At the same time, carmakers have increased sales of purely electric vans amid rising demand for online shopping deliveries.

Momentum around using hydrogen for trucks has been mixed. While Nikola Corp. has plans for fuel cell-powered big rigs, Traton SE, the truckmaker majority-owned by Volkswagen AG, favors batteries. Legacy carmakers Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. have also started hydrogen projects, while European rivals Volvo Group and Daimler AG joined forces last year.

Stellantis’ French rival Renault SA recently formed a joint venture with Plug Power Inc. to build hydrogen-fueled delivery vans in Europe. They plan is to start offering both vehicles and hydrogen-fueling stations by early 2022.

Europe is pinning its green hopes on renewable hydrogen, with backers saying it’s key to decarbonizing industrial processes such as refining and steelmaking, and is more suitable than using batteries to power heavy trucks, trains, boats and even airplanes.

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