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Renault to enter FCEV commercial sphere

Going green: Renault will develop FCEV versions of the Master (left) and Trafic (below) vans as part of its new joint venture.

MoU with Plug Power Inc to help Renault gain foothold with FCEVs in LCV segment

13 Jan 2021

GROUPE Renault has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with American hydrogen fuel-cell specialist Plug Power Inc that will allow the French manufacturer to launch its own fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in the light-commercial vehicle (LCV) space.


The MoU will launch a 50:50 joint venture between the two companies by the end of the first half of the year, that will see not only the manufacture and sale of Renault-badged FCEVs, but also research and development, and the advancement of turn-key solutions around hydrogen fuel-cell technology. 


For Groupe Renault, its move into the FCEV space will be based around three pillars, the first of which is R&D, with the company planning to build an Innovation Centre in France to develop fuel-cell LCVs based on existing vehicles.


The first vehicles to be converted to FCEVs will be the Trafic medium van and Master large van, which in Australia are the brand’s second and third best-selling models respectively. 


If the brand plans to convert its entire LCV portfolio to FCEV technology, the next vehicles to receive the treatment would be the Kangoo city van (which has been sold locally as an EV in the past) and the Alaskan pick-up, which could provide a stark point of difference in the popular pick-up segment as the only alternative-powertrain offering.


The second pillar is based around manufacturing, with Renault and Plug Power to establish a vertically integrated fuel-cell stack and system manufacturing centre in France for implementation in Renault vehicles, as well as the manufacture of hydrogen refuelling systems.


Finally, the third pillar will focus on the sale of FCEVs, with the two companies to create a “hydrogen vehicle eco-system solution company”, which will not only offer the sale of vehicles but also hydrogen fuelling stations, hydrogen fuel and services.


Renault says offering a full range of FCEV solutions will help accelerate adoption among commercial fleets.


Pilot fleet deployments will begin later this year.


Renault CEO Luca de Meo said the joint venture would allow the brand to realise its goal of providing FCEV powertrains in its LCV range.


“This joint-venture project is fully aligned with our strategy to offer market ready H2 solutions for LCVs,” he said.


“With Plug Power, we will build a unique end-to-end fuel cell value chain and offer turnkey solutions for customers including vehicles, refuelling stations and decarbonised hydrogen delivery. 


“With this project, our ambition is to position France as a bridgehead of industrial, technical and commercial development in this key technology, and to strengthen our leadership in Europe as our objective is to become the European leader in fuel-cell LCV.”


Plug Power, an American company founded in 1997, has deployed over 40,000 FCEV systems for e-mobility and is the world’s largest buyer of liquid hydrogen. 


Having previously built a hydrogen highway across North America, Plug Power’s customers across other industries include Amazon, Carrefour and Walmart.


Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh said the partnership would help extend its reach into the European automotive industry.


“Plug Power prides itself on being at the leading edge of innovation in the hydrogen fuel cell industry, which is why we are thrilled to partner with Groupe Renault to become a leader of market fuel cell heavy vans in Europe,” he said.


“We look forward to working with our new partners to combine our technology with their decades long experience leading the European automotive market.”

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