Renault SA’s new joint venture with fuel cell Maker Plug Power Inc. has a new name for building hydrogen-powered vans – and a timeline to reach the market this year.
The project, now called Hyvia, aims to start building a three-fuel van at the Renault plants in France by the end of the year.
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Each of these three models will be based on Renault’s Master van line – the key to getting to the market quickly. All will use the same electric motors that power the all-electric version of the Master. The two companies announced a joint venture in January.
“The goal, of course, is speed. That’s our first concern,” Hyvia CEO David Holderbach said in an interview.
Ventura Renault is making a bet that hydrogen will play a key role in transportation as the world changes from fossil fuels. This thought is reflected in the new name, in the combination of “hydrogen” and “via,” with the Latin word road. Fuel cell vehicles do not emit greenhouse gases, and can be supplied with hydrogen in three minutes, much faster than an electric vehicle can recharge the battery. Fuel cell vehicles are also lighter than electric battery competitors, which is a significant advantage for distribution vans and trucks.
Plug Power and Renault own 50% of Hyvia and the two companies expect to invest at least € 65 million ($ 79 million) proportionally by 2022, according to the federation, which unveiled it on Thursday.
“You can refuel in a few minutes and work as usual,” Holderbach said. “We’re reaching usage limits with EV solutions because we have to carry a lot of charge with the batteries.”
Two of the vans will be designed for delivery, while the third will be configured as a bus. Hyvia will also supply customers with hydrogen charging stations for the launch of vans and the delivery of hydrogen.
Plug Power built its business by making fuel cells for forklifts and other storage equipment. But the company has signed a number of agreements over the past year to expand to other businesses, including making and distributing hydrogen.
A Renault factory that already makes a master van will build a lot of new vehicles for a Renault van. But the fuel cells will be built at Renault’s Flins factory, near Paris, and a third facility in the area will integrate the fuel cells into the vans. The joint venture will be located in Villiers-Saint-Frederic, where Renault is the headquarters of the Renault engineering and development center for light commercial vehicles.
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