Symbio inaugurates first gigafactory, SymphonHy

SymphonHy will enable Symbio to support its customers in making zero-emission hydrogen mobility an affordable reality, without compromising performance.

Autocar Pro News Desk By Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 06 Dec 2023 Views icon1335 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Symbio inaugurates first gigafactory, SymphonHy

Symbio, a joint venture equally owned by Forvia, Michelin, and Stellantis, has inaugurated its first gigafactory named "SymphonHy." The gigafactory serves as a center of technological and industrial excellence.

The SymphonHy gigafactory, located in Saint-Fons in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region, is the largest integrated fuel cell production site in Europe. The facility includes the group's headquarters, a production plant, an innovation hub, and the Symbio Hydrogen Academy. It features state-of-the-art technology with a high level of automation and robotics, enabling large-scale industrial production at a more competitive cost. The gigafactory aims to accelerate the deployment of competitive, high-performance hydrogen-powered transport and align with Europe's ambitions for net-zero emissions.

Here are some key figures for SymphonHy:

  • Current production capacity: 16,000, expected to reach 50,000 by 2026
  • Existing surface area: 26,000 m2, with a planned expansion to 40,000 m2 by 2026
  • Innovation space: 7,000 m2
  • ISO 8-certified cleanrooms: 8,000 m2
  • More than 450 engineers, including 100 dedicated to innovation and around 20 with PhDs in various disciplines
  • The site is energy self-sufficient and certified as "Very Good" by BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method)

SymphonHy will enable Symbio to support its customers in making zero-emission hydrogen mobility an affordable reality, without compromising performance.

Stellantis, a co-shareholder in Symbio, has been a pioneer in bringing zero-emission hydrogen solutions to light commercial vehicles. The Peugeot e-Expert, Citroën e-Jumpy, and Opel Vivaro-e models are examples of Stellantis' commitment to hydrogen technology. The company is expanding its range to include large vans with a mid-power architecture, offering a range of up to 500 km and a recharge time of less than 10 minutes.

Additionally, Stellantis has confirmed its plans to develop hydrogen technology for its Ram brand pickups, aligning with its goal of electrifying its vehicle portfolio. The focus is on achieving a range of 320 miles ALVW (Adjusted Laden Vehicle Weight) or 200 miles GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) without compromising on payload capacity. Notably, all these vehicles will be equipped with fuel cells produced by Symbio. 

Philippe Rosier, CEO of Symbio speaking on the inauguration said “SymphonHy is proof of Europe’s industrial and technological leadership. Together with the entire ecosystem and our private and public partners, we are ready to scale up and make hydrogen electric mobility, a sustainable, high-performance, and affordable reality. Delivered in less than two years, SymphonHy is testimonial of Symbio’s ability to meet its industrial commitments, underpinning the acceleration of zero-emission hydrogen mobility deployment. The first 100% fuel cell system assembled at SymphonHy was produced in October 2023, just one month after the gigafactory became operational.” 

Patrick Koller, CEO of Forvia commented “A few weeks after inaugurating two major Forvia sites in France to accelerate the decarbonisation of mobility, I’m delighted to be part of this new step for Symbio, which is now sized to meet the challenges of the global market. This plant is further proof of our commitment to zero emission mobility. Forvia believes in hydrogen technology as the only complementary credible alternative to battery electrification. With Symbio, we cover 75% of the hydrogen mobility value chain, from fuel cells to storage systems. We are working to develop innovative solutions to improve the range of our customers’ fuel cell electric vehicles. In 2022, FORVIA delivered 10,000 hydrogen tanks worldwide, a record and an important milestone in our quest to become number 1.”

Florent Menegaux, CEO of Michelin shared “Michelin was a very early believer in hydrogen and in Symbio, which we acquired before turning it into a joint venture with Forvia in 2019. The entry of Stellantis into the capital this year confirms that hydrogen meets a constant concern to support the future of mobility. This technology is now proving to be an essential addition to satisfy the need for longer range, particularly for commercial vehicles, which are starting to be fitted out. It’s no coincidence that the Group recently announced a range of hydrogen-powered vehicles through its subsidiary Watèa by Michelin, a mobility operator specialising in the energy transition of business fleets, with an offer of hydrogen vehicle.”

Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis: “Symbio is the proof that three French-rooted and leading companies in their respective fields can join forces and expertise to be at the forefront. Today’s inauguration marks an important step as hydrogen is part of the mix of technologies we are bringing forward for commercial vehicle customers. This technology is a building block of the powerful electrification ecosystem we are developing to support our bold goal to reach, by 2030, 100% electric sales in Europe and 50% in the U.S. As Stellantis’ purpose is to ‘lead the way the world moves,’ hydrogen will contribute to reaching our ambitious carbon net zero by 2038 target, ahead of the competition in our fight against climate change.”

Moreover, in partnership with the German group Schaeffler, Symbio has set up a 50/50 joint-venture, Innoplate, to produce bipolar plates (BPPs), a strategic component in fuel cells. Based in Alsace, France, Innoplate will be operational in the first quarter of next year with an initial capacity of 4 million BPPs, rising to c. 50 million BPPs annually and employing over 120 people by 2030. Innoplate will help accelerate the production of new-generation BPPs for the PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cell market, improving performance and competitiveness while reducing costs.

Fuel cell technology complements battery technology for sustainable electric mobility. It is ideal for intensive and demanding professional usages entailing heavy loads, long distances, and quick refilling times. It is particularly well-suited to business transport.

HyMotive: a strategic industrial and technological project generating jobs:

SymphonHy is a part of HyMotive, a significant industrial and technological project supported by the European Union and the French government through the Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) initiative

The HyMotive project involves a total multi-year investment of Euro 1 billion and plans to establish a second gigafactory, effectively doubling the overall production capacity in France to 100,000 systems annually by 2028. The overarching goal is to advance technology that supports the competitiveness of fuel cell technology, with the aim of achieving parity with battery-powered electric mobility and traditional thermal technology by 2030.

As a result of the HyMotive project, Symbio has significantly expanded its workforce, growing from 50 employees in 2019 to over 750. The company anticipates creating 1,000 jobs, emphasising the positive impact of the project on employment opportunities in the region.

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