Photo: Symbio
Michelin Symbio

Michelin's Symbio to develop Class 8 fuel cell trucks

April 14, 2022
A $2 million California Energy Commission grant will help Michelin's hydrogen mobility offshoot begin testing its fuel cell electric vehicle solution.

California has a 2045 goal of becoming carbon neutral, and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), which offer the range and fast fueling of diesel trucks, are being looked at as a viable option for commercial fleets.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) wants to vet the technology, and is providing $2 million to Symbio, a joint venture between Michelin and Faurecia, to design and demonstrate a Class 8 FCEV in a regional haul application. The goal of the “Symbio H2 Central Valley Express” project is to prove that hydrogen mobility can match a 15L diesel truck's performance.

GTI will provide grant support, technical training and project management, while Total Transportation Services (TTSI) will be the fleet operator.

See also: Putting hydrogen fuel cell trucks to work

The project will commence in the later half of 2023. For one full year, a modified Freightliner Cascadia truck will traverse a 400-mile route between the Inland Empire and Northern San Joaquin Valley. Air Liquide, Shell, and Trillium all have existing hydrogen infrastructure in the region to support fueling.

Symbio will be responsible for creating and integrating the powertrain using its fuel cell stack technology, called StackPack. This will couple to Faurecia’s hydrogen storage system. Michelin's low resistance tires will also be used, which should improve the truck's range.

"Ultimately through this project and the contributions of the whole team, we are determined to address current commercialization barriers and accelerate the adoption of hydrogen-based heavy-duty mobility solutions in the goods movement market,”  said Rob Del Core, general manager, Symbio North America.

Michelin's history of hydrogen

“Michelin has been in hydrogen for about 20 years,” said Anthony Reyes, VP of Hydrogen Services, Michelin. “The initiative started with an R&D project in Switzerland. Michelin, for some time now, has been looking to grow with, around, and beyond tires. Since then, we’ve created four different generations of fuel cells up to today. Those fuel cells have been tested in automobiles, in ferries, in buses, in stored systems for Airbus—a number of different scenarios.”

Today, Reyes said, fourth generation fuel cell is “really ready for primetime commercial vehicle scenarios.”

Reyes said Symbio is already shipping with partners in Europe, including Stellantis, Peugeot, Citroen, and Opel utility vans. 

"We’re also shipping with a European bus brand, Safra," Reyes added. "There are 1,500 buses that are being manufactured now and will be shipping over the next three years in a series of French cities.”

Symbio's experience extends beyond its inception in 2019 as a joint venture.

“Symbio, as an organization, has been making fuel cells or developing fuel cells for 10 years,” explained Rick Breunesse, director of business development, Symbio. “With the assistance and the knowledge that Michelin brings to the table, we’re built into a stage now where we can really implement it into a heavy-duty truck, in higher production. Faurecia also brings a lot to the table as far as the knowledge on the storage tanks."

Reyes said one of Symbio's major advantages is the consolidation of components.

"The fact that we create the fuel cell, the storage tanks, and then we add all the other necessary components for the [fuel cell system], no other competitor does that," Reyes asserted. "We’re able to go to the OEMs and fleets and say, ‘Look, you don’t need to buy the fuel cell from here, the tanks from there, the battery elsewhere… We offer a turnkey solution.”

This article originally appeared on Fleet Maintenance, FleetOwner's sibling publication and part of the Endeavor Commercial Vehicle Group. 

About the Author

Tyler Fussner | Assistant Editor | Vehicle Repair Group

Tyler Fussner is assistant editor for the Vehicle Repair Group.

Fussner studied professional writing and publishing at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He has experience in shop operations, is a Michelin Certified Tire Technician, and a Michelin Certified Tire Salesperson.

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