Stellantis will release a trio of hydrogen-electric commercial vans in select European markets before the end of 2021. It developed these cargo haulers to give buyers who live reasonably close to a hydrogen station a zero-local-emissions option without the long charging time and the relatively short driving range of an electric van.
Peugeot, Citroën, and Opel will inaugurate this technology by launching hydrogen-electric variants of the Expert, the Jumpy (sold as the Dispatch in the United Kingdom), and the Vivaro, respectively. These models are identical underneath the sheetmetal, so Stellantis is taking a one-size-fits-all approach to rolling out its hydrogen system. Each of the aforementioned brands will get its own version of the model, which hasn’t been unveiled yet.
The powertrain will consist of a fuel stack located under the hood, three hydrogen tanks stuffed under the cargo compartment, and a 10.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack located beneath the driver’s seat. The stack will draw hydrogen from the tanks and use it to produce electricity, which will then drive a 121-horsepower electric motor that spins the front wheels. Alternatively, users will be able to bypass the stack by recharging the battery.
Stellantis quotes 31 miles of range on electricity alone, and about 250 miles of range with a full charge and a full load of hydrogen. It pointed out refueling the van will take approximately three minutes. Buyers will have medium- and long-wheelbase models to choose from, and they’ll be able to haul up to 2,400 pounds.
In comparison, the electric version of the Jumpy offers up to 205 miles of driving range and a 2,800-pound payload. And the version fitted with a 122-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine can haul over 3,200 pounds and drive for around 800 miles on a full tank. The hydrogen model will be a mid-level offering, then.
One of the main hurdles standing in the way of hydrogen-powered vehicles (whether they’re commercial vans or private cars) is the lack of an infrastructure. There are about 90 hydrogen fueling stations scattered across Germany, according to British magazine Auto Express, and only about 25 in France. These networks reportedly grow monthly, but it will take some time before hydrogen becomes a viable alternative to diesel or electricity.
Keeping costs in check is another problem that Stellantis needs to solve. It hasn’t announced pricing information yet, but it hopes starting the project with an existing model instead of designing a car from scratch (like Toyota did with the Mirai) will allow it to meet its cost targets. In the coming years, the carmaker’s range of hydrogen-powered vehicles could grow to include the passenger-carrying variants of these vans. Engineers will use the lessons learned from the project to develop a second-generation system with broader applications in mind.
Stellantis hasn’t indicated whether one of its American brands (like Ram) will bring this technology to the United States. As of writing, the vans set to receive it aren’t sold on our side of the pond. Back in Europe, the Jumpy might become the first retro-styled hydrogen-powered van. Italian coachbuilder Caselani introduced a kit that lets buyers give a late-model Jumpy a new-look design inspired by the Citroën Type H built from 1947 to 1981.