Opel, which has just launched its all-electric Vivaro-e panel van, has now committed to putting a hydrogen-fuelled version on sale by the end of 2021 in Europe, and by 2023 here in Ireland.
Plug-in hydrogen hybrid
It’s not merely a hydrogen fuel-cell van, though. Instead, this Vivaro uses a plug-in hybrid module, with a compact 10.5kWh battery. When fully charged, that can power the van for as much as 50km. Then, when the battery is depleted, the van can switch over to hydrogen power.
The fuel cell replaces the normal diesel engine in the nose of the Vivaro, and instead of the regular battery Vivaro-e’s lithium-ion cells, this hydrogen version uses three hydrogen tanks that sit under the floor, where the battery normally goes. Those hold hydrogen, compressed at 700 bar pressure (just for reference, a regular car tyre is normally pressurised at around 2.5-3.0 bar).
400km hydrogen range
That hydrogen system can keep the van going for as much as 400km — almost 100km more than the 75kWh battery version of the Vivaro-e can manage. The 45kW hydrogen fuel cell’s electricity goes to drive the same 136hp (100kW) electric motor as the regular Vivaro-e, so performance is broadly similar.
Thanks to the fact that the hydrogen is stored in tanks under the floor, the Vivaro-e Hydrogen’s load space is unaffected, remaining at a maximum of 6.1 cubic metres. The maximum payload is actually a little better than that of the battery version’s, with a maximum permissible load of 1,100kg. The Vivaro-e Hydrogen will be offered in the same 4.95- and 5.3-metre lengths as the standard model.
Centre of excellence
The Vivaro-e Hydrogen will be built at Opel Special Vehicles (OSV) in Rüsselsheim, which will now become the hydrogen centre of excellence for the whole Stellantis Group (the giant conglomerate created by the combination of PSA – Peugeot, Citroen and Opel - and Fiat-Chrysler).
“Hydrogen could be the central element of an integrated and efficient energy system of the future, free of fossil fuels”,
says Opel CEO, Michael Lohscheller.
“At Opel, we have more than 20 years of experience in hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technology. There is hardly another propulsion system in the world that offers the combination of zero emissions, long driving range and only three minutes refuelling time.”