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It’s funny how opposed someone can be to something without even trying – like not eating broccoli because it looks funny, or not wanting to play a sport without ever walking out onto the field. This is the perfect way to describe Stellantis, the fourth-largest automaker in the world, after the last three years. In 2021, the automotive group was practically fighting against the change to go electric. Now, Stellantis is a partner in an equally owned joint venture with Forvia and Michelin to form Symbio, the name for the group in charge of the SymphonHy gigafactory for hydrogen fuel cell production.
*Sniffle* They grow up so fast. “Symbio” may sound like a new name, but it’s just been buying its time with research and development to create the largest integrated fuel cell production site in Europe. Not just a factory or production facility, SymphonHy is more than a gigafactory. Made of four areas, the Group’s headquarters, a production plant, an innovation hub of, and the Symbio Hydrogen Academy, a lot has been accomplished. With more than 30 years of experience, the support of its shareholders, leaders in the automotive world, and a total of 3.5 million miles of road-testing performed, Symbio has been able to shape a portfolio of hydrogen fuel cell solutions.
Symbio has provided solutions that met all power, durability, and autonomy requirements for a number of automaker seeking efficient zero-emission mobility technology in multiple vehicle classes, including on-road light and mid-range commercial vehicles, trucks, pickups, buses and coaches, and even to off-road lifting and mechanical handling equipment. To be able to provide such consumers with competitive, high-performance hydrogen-powered transport is just one step in Europe’s plan to move towards a carbon net zero society.
The SymphonHy site covers a total existing surface area of 26,000 m2, with plants to expand to 40,000 m2 by 2026. Of that space, 7,000 m2 has been dedicated to the innovation hub. With more than 450 engineers, the group has been split up to dedicate 100 of them to innovation; 20 of which have PhDs covering a wide range of disciplines (electrochemical engineering, chemistry, materials science, etc.). All of them have been brought together to work in a single world-class innovation center to work out new solutions for hydrogen fuel cell mobility.
In terms of the gigafactory, the current production capacity target is set at 16,000 hydrogen fuel cells a year, with goals of raising that target to 50,000 hydrogen fuel cells a year by 2026. As a whole, the site has been certified “Very Good” by BREEAM for energy self-sufficiency. Across the site, there are a total of 8,000 m2 of ISO 8-certified cleanrooms to provide a controlled environment to filter pollutants and reduce contamination.
Stellantis is already benefiting from this joint venture, with plants to market zero-emission hydrogen solutions. Already the first automaker to market zero-emission hydrogen solutions for light commercial vehicles, with Symbio, Stellantis is also expanding its lineup further with hydrogen technology for its Ram brand pickup trucks. The company is also researching into the development of large vans with a mid-power architecture, able to deliver a driving range of up to 300 miles, and a recharge time of less than 10 minutes.
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