By Gilles Guillaume
PARIS (Reuters) -Carmaker Stellantis said on Wednesday it will begin deliveries in Europe of its first medium-sized vans powered by hydrogen fuel cells by the end of 2021.
The group, which was formed by the merger of PSA and Fiat Chrysler earlier this year, said the hydrogen fuel cell vans will be launched under the Peugeot, Citroen and Opel brands.
A passenger car model powered by hydrogen fuel cells will come later.
Combustion engine versions of the van are currently assembled in France under the names Peugeot Expert, Citroen Jumpy and Opel Vivaro. In 2020 Stellantis sold nearly 130,000 mid-size vans globally.
The hydrogen fuel cell model will be assembled in Russelsheim, Germany, using technology developed by Symbio, a joint venture of Michelin and Faurecia.
Fuel cells produce electricity from hydrogen, emitting only water. As batteries in electric vehicles are very heavy, hydrogen fuel cells are seen as a more viable zero-emission power system for long-haul freight in the future.
Stellantis said its vans will have a range of around 400 kilometres (249 miles) and can refuel with hydrogen in just three minutes.
One of the disadvantages of electric vehicles is that current models take much longer than fossil-fuel models to refuel.
But a lack of existing fuelling infrastructure is an obstacle for the mass adoption of hydrogen fuel cells by automakers.
Stellantis said on Wednesday that Germany currently has 90 hydrogen stations, and France just 25 - a tiny fraction of the thousands of petrol stations available for fossil-fuel models today.
(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume; Writing by Nick Carey; Editing by Jane Merriman and Jan Harvey)