Vauxhall will add a hydrogen powered van to its UK range by early 2023, though customers in Europe are already taking delivery of the all-electric van. Power for the van comes from a 45kW fuel cell, which is routed through a 10.5Wh lithium-ion battery that provides peak power needs at start-up and under heavy acceleration.
Dr Lars Peter Thiesen, manager Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Deployment Strategy at Stellantis, describes the approach as a mid-power concept, between a full-power hydrogen-only system and a range-extender fuel cell battery electric vehicle (BEV).
The Vivaro-e Hydrogen will allow refuelling of its 4.4kg hydrogen tanks in just three minutes, providing a range of up to 350km, while the battery adds an additional 50km of driving range. Thiesen says the system has several advantages over the full-power or range-extender solutions, with smarter packaging of the hydrogen fuel system within the chassis and fuel cell in the engine bay, as well as no compromise on power compared to a full-power hydrogen system.
With the fuel cell constantly running at its optimum to charge the battery, the system is also more durable, and with a smaller fuel cell needed, the Vivaro-e Hydrogen will also have a cost advantage over a full-power system.
Of course, the technology is new and will come at a premium and while Vauxhall won’t commit to an outright purchase price for the vehicle, it does say it will be available to customers with a monthly lease cost of €600 in Germany, which includes a service contract and government funding grants. In reality the technology is approximately 2.5 to 3 times more expensive than an equivalent BEV.
The current price too of hydrogen is also not a fair reflection of where the market will end up as it reaches maturity, according to Thiesen: “Today, the price [of hydrogen] is an artificial price because there’s no developed market for it. Today we are a cost of around €8 per kg net of local tax, but with green hydrogen [produced using renewable energy] that price could be €5 or even €3 or €4 per kg.
“At the moment, a lot of people at government, infrastructure and production level are engaged in the question of hydrogen strategy. Over the last 20 years we have overcome all the technological difficulties, but three challenges remain – cost, availability of refuelling stations and the large-scale production of green hydrogen. We need to deploy a fuel cell vehicle today with a public funding framework in place at a high level and have an existing refuelling station network.
“This is why we are launching in France and Germany because in those markets we have those two things. The funding and a basic infrastructure,” he added.
Interest in the Vivaro-e Hydrogen has been strong, according to Thiesen, with fleet customers wanting a zero-emission solution but the flexibility of longer distance driving and the ability to fuel quickly. Its suitability is also helped by it having the exact same load carrying capacity of 5.3m3 or 6.1m3 as medium- or long-wheelbase BEV and ICE vehicles as well as a payload capacity of up to 1,100kg.
For more on hydrogen, read about Spie’s extension to their electric option.