Stellantis Shores Up Hydrogen Future With Symbio Stake

Stellantis’ investment in Symbio comes at a time when hydrogen tech companies need to be well capitalized.

David Kiley

May 16, 2023

4 Min Read
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Stellantis’ investment in hydrogen tech supplier Symbio strengthens automaker’s supply chain for fuel cells.

Stellantis acquires a 33% stake in Symbio, an emerging leader in zero-emission hydrogen mobility technology, while Faurecia and Michelin hold equal shares of the other two-thirds of the company.

The Stellantis investment bolsters Symbio’s capital resources as substantial investments in hydrogen energy and mobility take place before a mass of customers actually materializes. It also solidifies a pipeline of hydrogen technology for Stellantis, which has made it clear it is developing fuel-cell vehicles for its truck and van businesses.

“Acquiring an equal stake in Symbio will bolster our leadership position in hydrogen-powered vehicles by supporting our fuel-cell van production in France, and it also serves as a perfect complement to our growing battery-electric vehicle portfolio,” says Carlos Tavares, Stellantis CEO.

“As we push our Dare Forward 2030 plan forward and move to become carbon net zero by 2038, we are considering every technological tool at our fingertips to fight global warming,” he says. “Hydrogen fuel cells are necessary, and Symbio will become a significant player in the battle to protect future generations.”

Symbio plans to produce 50,000 fuel cells per year by 2025, leveraging its Saint-Fons state-of-the-art gigafactory, which will start production in the second half of 2023, according to the company. In 2022, Symbio announced a plan to reach annual production capacity in France of 100,000 systems by 2028.

Hydrogen has been a future technology for more than thirty years. But with the acceleration of climate change and the new politics around fossil fuel energy ignited by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union and China are all accelerating hydrogen energy investments for both stationary energy and mobility demands.

In the U.S., the Biden Admin. has made a commitment to invest $2 trillion in infrastructure and clean energy over the next decade. As part of this effort, the administration has proposed a $15 billion investment in a range of hydrogen-related initiatives, including the development of hydrogen fueling stations and research into the use of hydrogen in transportation and industry.

Similarly, the EU has set a target of becoming climate-neutral by 2050 and has identified hydrogen as a key component of this transition. The EU has pledged to invest €470 billion ($562 billion) in clean energy technologies, including hydrogen, over the next decade. This investment is expected to support the development of hydrogen production, storage and transport infrastructure, as well as the deployment of hydrogen-powered vehicles and other applications.

China is also investing heavily in hydrogen energy. The Chinese government has set a target of having 1 million hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles on the road by 2030, and has established a number of incentives to encourage their adoption. Additionally, China has launched a number of R&D initiatives aimed at advancing hydrogen production, storage and transport technologies.

The issue for hydrogen suppliers and technology companies is that there is a lag between the investments being made and customers buying and generating revenue. Shares of Nikola, a start-up dedicated to building semi-trucks that run on hydrogen, for example, has tumbled from more than $8 a share to less than $1 today, largely owing to the lag between investment outlay and returns on that investment in a hydrogen infrastructure.

Tom Stephenson, chairman and CEO of Pajarito Powder, a supplier of hydrogen electrolyzers, says investments in hydrogen are coming fast and furious because of mandates for trucks to move to zero-emissions in California and Europe. "The regulatory environment is driving investments in fuel-cells in all applications for hydrogen," says Stevenson.

“The entry of Stellantis into the capital of Symbio is a tremendous development driver for our joint subsidiary,” says Michelin CEO Florent Menegaux. “It is also a perfect demonstration that fuel cell technology is essential for the automotive industry to succeed in the electrification of mobility, particularly for professional use. Stellantis is already a partner of choice and will be a key player with us in the future. Finally, this transaction reinforces the conviction that Michelin has held for many years: Hydrogen will be one of the unavoidable solutions for decarbonization.”

Heavy trucks are viewed as the sharp end of the spear of transition, along with stationery energy, as fuel cells are widely viewed as the best replacement for diesel engines. Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors is the outlier, with its BEV semi-truck, insisting that lithium-ion batteries are a better alternative to diesel than hydrogen.

Aside from mobility, a strong demand for stationery fuel-cell power is emerging, especially at ports around the world to serve as energy sources for cargo ships while they are docked so they can turn off their diesel engines. Longer term, there is a movement to build

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