We’ve largely enjoyed a lot of cricket noises on the alternative powertrain front where Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Stellantis is concerned—at least ever since the Daimler divorce. (Remember the fuel-cell-powered Commander 2 Concept of 2001, which included a full refinery under the hood to separate hydrogen from methanol, which must have been slightly easier to come by than hydrogen in the day?) Well, Peugeot has had its own hydrogen-powered research vehicles and Opel benefited from years of GM hydrogen research, so once again Germany is leading the charge (with substantial help from France), as Stellantis prepares fuel-cell power for … light commercial vans.
What Stellantis Vehicles Will Get Fuel Cells, and When?
The European brands of Stellantis have had some success selling battery electric commercial vans, but more than half of potential customers report occasionally having a need to travel more than 186 miles per day, exceeding the 155-mile range of the BEVans. So the company is replacing the large under-floor battery pack with three 10,000-plus PSI hydrogen tanks supplied by French conglomerate Faurecia (the fuel cell stack comes from Symbio, a joint venture between Faurecia and Michelin focusing on hydrogen fuel cell tech). The first products to market will be three vans that share a common platform: Citroën Jumpy, Peugeot Expert, and Opel Vivaro. The prototype versions are being built at Opel Special Vehicles (OSV) in Rüsselsheim, Germany. Deliveries will start late this year (2021).
Will the Ram ProMaster City Get Fuel Cell Power?
No. The Ram ProMaster City is built on smaller architecture that’s shared with the Fiat Doblò and Vauxhall Combo, so the fuel cell and battery gear won’t fit. And in any case, California has half as many hydrogen filling stations as Germany (and the other states basically have none), so the U.S. market for fuel-cell vans would likely be miniscule.
It’s a Plug-In Fuel Cell!
Stellantis is referring to its architecture as a “Mid-Power” solution that subdivides the fuel-cell range extender (small 5-kW fuel-cell stack fed by a 2.2-pound hydrogen tank, and a large battery), and a fuel cell big enough to fully power the vehicle (100 kW, 11 pounds of hydrogen in the tanks, and a small battery). This solution pairs a modest 45-kW fuel cell stack (packaged above the electric motor under the hood), and 9.7-pounds of hydrogen with a larger 10.5 kWh battery (which packages above the floor but under the front seats, to preserve the cargo compartment). Fuel cells take a moment to “start” from cold, so the battery handles all the van’s start-up and first-mile needs. When the vehicle needs to accelerate rapidly, power comes from both the battery and the fuel cell, while simple cruising can be powered by the fuel cell alone. The battery gets plugged in overnight and recovers regenerative braking energy, but the fuel cell can also top it up to ensure there’s always sufficient power on tap for full acceleration.
Range and Refueling Time
These are the fuel cell’s selling features. As noted, range is 250 miles, about 30 of which are powered by the 10.5-kWh battery, and it can be filled with hydrogen in just 3 short minutes, using filler located where the diesel filler would be.
What Will It Hold?
The payload is an impressive 2,425 pounds inside the impressive 215.4-cubic-foot cargo area. We’re also told the electric van’s towing capability is maintained, but the press materials provided neglect to mention a figure.
What Will the Stellantis Fuel Cell Vans Cost?
The team was exceptionally tight lipped on this point, as the final engineering is still be completed and long-term contracts inked.
Will a Fuel Cell Power a Dodge, Chrysler, Ram, or Jeep Passenger Vehicle Soon?
Do. Not. Hold. Your. Breath.