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Stellantis Reveals Plug-In Hydrogen Fuel Cell Van

Stellantis – the automotive group created from the combination of the PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) – announced today an all-new mid-power hydrogen fuel cell system architecture.

The company is already engaged in the battery-electric and plug-in hybrid segment, but according to the latest press release, it would like to achieve zero-emission driving, long-range, short refueling time and no compromises in terms of payload by using hydrogen fuel cells. Of course, all in a package available at a reasonable cost. But is it even possible?

Stellantis: Mid-Power Hydrogen Fuel Cell System

Together with its partners – Faurecia and Symbio – Stellantis has decided to use a mid-power solution, which is a 45 kW hydrogen fuel cell stack, with a 4.4 kg hydrogen tank (700 bars, under the floor), combined with a relatively small 10.5 kWh battery (buffer).

The fuel cells will be used to provide a relatively flat power output, while the battery would take the acceleration/deceleration (regenerative braking) task, with an option to recharge from the grid (plug-in capability).

The other solutions are even smaller, range-extender FCVs or full-power FCVs, but those are not included at this point:

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The first step for the mid-power FCVs will be light commercial vehicles (LCVs). It’s quite interesting because PSA has a very strong lineup of all-electric LCVs.

“As we look further into the future, hydrogen fuel cells show – especially for LCV – great promise as the next level of zero emission propulsion technology as they will fulfill customer range expectations combined with towing and payload capacity.”

Stellantis: Mid-Power Hydrogen Fuel Cell System
Stellantis: Mid-Power Hydrogen Fuel Cell System

The preliminary specs says that Stellantis’s FCVs will be able to achieve a range of more than 400 km (250 miles) WLTP and refuel the hydrogen in about 3 minutes.

The cargo volume and loading capacity will be the same as in the combustion engine version. And finally, the vehicle will be 100% zero-emission.

The 10.5 kWh battery with an output of 90 kW and possible charging power of 11 kW (for overnight charging) would be then an additional perk (it role is mostly auxiliary – because fuel cells are lacking power flexibility – as the battery range will be very small).

The electric motor (100 kW and 260 Nm) to be shared with the battery-electric models.

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Well, we don’t doubt that the mid-power hydrogen fuel cell system (with enlarged battery) has some advantages over the full-power hydrogen fuel cell systems, however… the range of over 400 km (250 miles) does not sound groundbreaking.

The currently available PSA’s mid-size vans already can be ordered in one of two battery versions (50 and 75 kWh), with WLTP range of up to 330 km (205 miles), and battery energy density has still potential to be improved. Those vehicles can also DC fast charge (by 80% SOC) in 30 or 45 minutes, depending on battery version. You can add those missing 70-100 km (the difference to FCVs) in a matter of 10 minutes when loading/unloading the vehicle, using a 3-phase AC charging station at the shop.

BEVs can start each day fully-charged, while the FCVs don’t have the infrastructure to even benefit from the higher range.

In other words, nothing has changed in the industry and the final question is the cost. Whether the FCV will be at least similarly priced as the 75 kWh battery version? Our guess is not.

Stellantis said that will start production of hydrogen LCVs by the end of 2021, but the location of Opel Special Vehicle (OSV) in Germany suggests that it will be only a pilot scale.

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