Renault and Plug Power in venture to make hydrogen vans this year

The companies expect to invest at least $79m in the project on a pro rata basis through 2022

Renault, which reported a net loss of $9.7 billion for 2020, owns 50 per cent of the new venture Hyvia. EPA
Renault, which reported a net loss of $9.7 billion for 2020, owns 50 per cent of the new venture Hyvia. EPA

Renault’s new joint venture with fuel-cell maker Plug Power to build hydrogen-powered vans has a new name and a timeline to hit the market this year.

The venture, now named Hyvia, plans to begin building three types of fuel-cell vans at existing Renault plants in France by year’s end.

Each of the three models will be based on Renault’s Master line of vans - a key to reaching the market quickly. All will use the same electric motors that now power the all-electric version of the Master van.

The joint venture was announced by the two companies in January.

“The objective, obviously, is speed - that’s our first concern,” David Holderbach, Hyvia’s chief executive, said.

The venture represents a bet by Renault that hydrogen will play a key role in transportation as the world shifts from fossil fuels. That thinking is reflected in the new name, a combination of hydrogen and via, the Latin word for road.

Fuel-cell vehicles produce no greenhouse gas emissions and they can refuel with hydrogen in as little as three minutes, far faster than an electric vehicle can recharge its battery pack. Fuel-cell vehicles are also lighter than their battery-electric competitors, a distinct advantage for delivery vans and trucks.

Plug Power and Renault each own 50 per cent of Hyvia, and the two companies expect to invest at least $79 million in the venture on a pro rata basis through 2022, according to a federal filing on Thursday.

“You can refuel in a few minutes and go about business as usual,” Mr Holderbach said. “We reach limits of usage with EV solutions, because you need to carry a heavy payload with the batteries.”

Two of the vans will be designed for delivering goods, while the third will be configured as a bus. Hyvia will supply customers with hydrogen to run the vans.

Plug Power built its business making fuel cells for forklifts and other warehouse gear. But the company has signed a series of deals in the last year to expand into other businesses, including making and distributing hydrogen.

Published: June 4, 2021 04:08 PM

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