California plans to become carbon neutral by 2045. One of its viable options is the development of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) that provide fast fueling and range similar to that of diesel trucks.
The California Energy Commission (CEC) is looking into the technology and plans to provide a 2-million dollar grant to Symbio. Symbio is a joint venture between Faurecia and Michelin. The firm will design a class 8 fuel cell electric vehicle under the project “Symbio H2 Central Valley Express” with the goal of providing hydrogen mobility that can perform like a 15 L diesel truck.
The project will receive project management, technical training, and grant support from GTI and Fleet operation services from Total Transportation Services (TTSI). The work will start in late 2023.
A customized Freightliner Cascadia truck will cover a 400-mile route between Northern San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire for one full year. The region already has hydrogen infrastructure from Trillium, Shell, and Air Liquide.
Symbio is tasked with developing and integrating the powertrain of the truck with its fuel cell stack technology called StackPack. This will work with the hydrogen storage system provided by Faurecia. Low resistance Michelin Tires will be used to improve the vehicle’s range.
“Ultimately through this project and the contributions of the whole team, we are determined to address current commercialization barriers and accelerate the adoption of hydrogen-based heavy-duty mobility solutions in the goods movement market,” said Rob Del Core, general manager, Symbio North America.
“Michelin has been in hydrogen for about 20 years,” said Anthony Reyes, VP of Hydrogen Services, Michelin. “The initiative started with an R&D project in Switzerland. Michelin, for some time now, has been looking to grow with, around, and beyond tires. Since then, we’ve created four different generations of fuel cells up to today. Those fuel cells have been tested in automobiles, in ferries, in buses, in stored systems for Airbus—a number of different scenarios.”
Currently, 4th generation fuel-cell technology is ready for use in commercial vehicles. Symbio is already shipping some of it to Europe in partnership with Citroen, Opel, Stellantis, and Peugeot utility vans.
“We’re also shipping with a European bus brand, Safra,” Reyes added. “There are 1,500 buses that are being manufactured now and will be shipping over the next three years in a series of French cities.”
Symbio was in operation before it became a joint venture in 2019. One of the company’s major advantages is the consolidation of components.
“Symbio, as an organization, has been making fuel cells or developing fuel cells for 10 years,” explained Rick Breunesse, director of business development, Symbio. “With the assistance and the knowledge that Michelin brings to the table, we’re built into a stage now where we can really implement it into a heavy-duty truck, in higher production. Faurecia also brings a lot to the table as far as the knowledge on the storage tanks.”
“The fact that we create the fuel cell, the storage tanks, and then we add all the other necessary components for the [fuel cell system], no other competitor does that,” Reyes asserted. “We’re able to go to the OEMs and fleets and say, ‘Look, you don’t need to buy the fuel cell from here, the tanks from there, the battery elsewhere… We offer a turnkey solution.”