Opel Vivaro-E Hydrogen, il furgone elettrico che si ricarica con il gas

ELECTRICITY AND HYDROGEN, ORIGINAL MATCH – Event at the Opel Special Vehicles plant for the dynamic presentation of the van Opel Vivaro-e Hydrogen. Some of the electrical components are the same as the Vivaro-e (here read more) but the battery is smaller and most of the power needed for traction is provided by fuel cell, which produce a maximum of 45 kW, powered by hydrogen contained in 3 extremely resistant carbon fiber cylinders. This way we get to 400 km of autonomymeasured with the Wltp cycle, 50 of which attributable to lithium battery from 10.5 kWh. The capacity of the 3 tanks is 4.4 kg of gas at 700 bar and the complete filling takes about 3 minutes, a time comparable to that of classic fuels. The powertrain includes a permanent magnet motor, already seen in other models of the former PSA group, with 100 kW / 136 hp and 260 Nm of torque: the latter value is not very high but can already be obtained at very low revs and therefore well exploitable. The data therefore speak of a vehicle whose autonomy depends mainly on hydrogen, but the battery still plays a very important role.

THE RIGHT BALANCE – The sizing chosen for the Opel Vivaro-e Hydrogen is halfway between the use of fuel cells as a range extender, which uses large-capacity batteries and low-powered fuel cells, and the scheme that favors hydrogen drive, characterized by small batteries and powerful fuel cells powered by fuel tanks. large capacity. Opel’s solution promises a good compromise between cost, duration of the fuel cells, size and performance, with the plus of an energy reserve that allows you to cover an appreciable distance even with empty hydrogen tanks. The battery contains much less energy than the cylinders (the distance ratio is 7: 1, or 350 versus 50 km) but manages to deliver up to 90 kW and is therefore very effective for supporting fuel cells when more power is required. In fact, the delivery of fuel cells reaches a 45 kW continuous, more than sufficient in the amrcia at constant speed but far below the maximum power of the engine, with the battery providing a useful supplement in case you are looking for maximum performance, for example during starting or climbing at full load. The battery holder it therefore allows the fuel cells to operate in their optimal operating conditions, increasing their duration. The Vivaro-e Hydrogen also allows the modes of a plug-in hybrid vehicle: regenerative braking recovers energy to accumulate it in the battery, with the latter can be recharged also by connecting to a public column or a wallbox / domestic or corporate power socket. This gives you 50 km of autonomy in purely electric battery mode with a declared recharge time of 90 minutes by connecting to a 7.4 kW wallbox.

VOLUMES PRESERVED, SEATS NO – L’Opel Vivaro-e Hydrogen has a load volume of up to 6.1 cubic meters (it is therefore the same as the diesel or battery electric versions) and is available in lengths of 4.95 and 5.30 meters (the electric version was also available with a length of 4 , 6 meters), with the first deliveries in autumn. Remember that Fuel cells work with an electrochemical reaction that combines the hydrogen contained in the tanks with the oxygen in the air: the combination of these elements produces water vapor, heat and electricity. The efficiency is quite high, worth about 60%, and at the ‘exhaust’ we only have water in the form of steam: it is therefore a vehicle with zero local emissions, like the battery-electric ones.

The powertrain of the Opel Vivaro-e Hydrogen it is designed to house the fuel cells and the traction motor under the hood of the vehicle in order to be able to transform the battery electric version into the fuel cell version without modifying the body. The load volume is therefore preserved, 5.3 or 6.1 m3 depending on the length, while the capacity is 1,100 kg with a towing capacity of one ton: the arrangement of the battery under the seats has made it possible not to damage the floor. load but has decreased the number of seats: they are 2, spacious and comfortable, instead of the 3 (driver’s seat plus bench) of the electric version. Every Vivaro-e Hydrogen is born… electric.

The fuel cell version is obtained from the electric version by removing the battery, which comes replaced by the module with the cylinders (same dimensions and connections as the battery) and inserting the fuel cells above the electric motor; the ‘advanced’ components return to the factory to be integrated into the normal Vivaro-e. We asked the reason for this somewhat cumbersome way of proceeding and we were told that today it is the only possible one because the factory that produces the Vivaro-e has a certified production for the complete models and not for the ‘lightened’ ones. .

SPECIALIZED CENTERS – The conversion of the Opel Vivaro-e Hydrogen in the hydrogen version, as mentioned, it takes place in the Opel Special Vehicles area in Rüsselsheim, the birthplace of the brand, where the Competence Center for Hydrogen and Global Fuel Cells of Stellantis is also located. The production line for the hydrogen-powered Vivaro employs 70 people and can currently produce 1,000 units per year. The covered area is 1,500 square meters and there is no shortage of sensors to detect any gas leaks and equipment to test vehicles transformed according to Opel production standards. The expected sales trend is 1,000 units / year in 2022/23, in 2024 10,000 should be produced with the overcoming of this figure which will take place starting from 2025 thanks also to a large van and the first deliveries in the USA; the prospect is to also produce a fuel cell pickup.

Attached to the production plant is the Battery Refurbishment Center, able to repair or regenerate broken battery packs, direct them to a Second life and recycle their materials at the end of their life, initially through accredited companies and later thanks to partnerships in Europe and North America. All employees are trained in the high voltage level 5 standard and deal with malfunctions that European sellers cannot handle. About 400 batteries were repaired in 2021, mostly with controller problems or one or more non-functioning cells. The battery arrives in Rüsselsheim, where its hermetic container is opened and the malfunctioning elements are identified and replaced to restore their original functionality.

The refurbished battery is then returned to the customer or sent as a spare part to the warehouse; if the damage is more serious, for example after a collision, one of these regenerated battery packs is taken and sent to the customer to replace the irrecoverable one, whose raw materials are recycled. The Battery Refurbishment Center has various test boxes for regenerated batteries, which are accompanied by a certificate attesting to their actual capacity. This specialized centerwhich occupies 1,000 square meters, treats up to 1,500 batteries / year with 15 employees and is able to intervene on all the batteries currently used in Stellantis as well as on those that will arrive.

WE TRAVEL WITH GAS – Also present at the event was an exponent of Miele: the well-known household appliance brand has decided to experiment with Opel Vivaro-e Hydrogen as part of a generalized reduction of its Carbon footprint which already in 2021 saw it eliminate its emissions linked to electricity consumption thanks to the use of energy from renewable sources. In the same year, the company offered at least one electric model for each company car category while already this year it will have 80 electric vans in its fleet, as well as several electric cars. The company believes that these hydrogen vans are very suitable for service interventions: hydrogen recharging is very fast, zero local emissions allow it to circulate everywhere and Miele considers the advantages that its technicians have from driving more important. comfortable and less tiring allowed by electric traction.

The customer experience it should be easy given the 8 years / 160 thousand km warranty and service package, also offered on the battery. In Opel they are confident about the market possibilities of these particular vehicles, whose main components are the result of the agreement between the component manufacturer Faurecia (who takes care of the cylinders) and Michelin, which entered the fuel cell sector thanks to the acquisition of Symbio ( read the news here). In fact the investments for hydrogen until 2030 they are about 18 billion in France and Germany alone, with the latter expected to pass from the current 200 recharging stations to 2,500 in 2030, a year in which about 450 thousand fuel cell vehicles are expected.

KM TO HYDROGEN – The test drive of about 50 km made it possible to make contact with a vehicle that appeared already mature and whose passenger compartment does not differ much from that of the Vivaro-e, with the exception of the seats, which are only 2 but very large and welcoming. The instrumentation of the Opel Vivaro-e Hydrogen it is identical to that of the electric model except for the addition of the hydrogen level indicator which takes the place of that of the power absorbed by the air conditioner. Same layout for the classic PRND choice (Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive), which takes place via buttons, with the one signed B (Brake) which is new and increases regenerative braking allowing almost a One pedal ride. The driving mode rocker allows you to choose between Eco (maximum power of 60 kW and limitations in the intensity of air conditioning), Normal and Eco; full torque delivery occurs only in Power mode.

The guide of the Opel Vivaro-e Hydrogenit is easy, pleasant and snappy, especially in Power, but shows a slight delay in the starts from a standstill: nothing that cannot be overcome a little in advance. Braking is ready and, above all, there are no ‘steps’ in the transition between regenerative and conventional. The central display is clearly visible and the controls are easy to find and use. We also did hydrogen refueling, an experience as fast as promised and requiring a short apprenticeship to properly engage and unhook the dispensing nozzle from the filler on the vehicle. The German standard price of 9.5 euros / kg makes the costs interesting, considering that you travel just under 100 km with one kg of gas.

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