French fuel-cell manufacturer Symbio celebrated the official opening of its SymphonHY gigafactory in Lyon, France, marking a significant milestone in its efforts to produce 16,000 hydrogen fuel cells each year. 

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Source: shutterstock

The inauguration comes as the company seeks to meet the growing demand for its Fuel Cell technology from various sectors.

Supported by state aid from the French government, granted through EU designation as an Important Project of Common European Interest, the gigafactory received undisclosed funding, estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of euros, according to a Symbio spokesperson. The financial support is believed to constitute approximately 60% of the €1 billion invested in the factory. Initial production began in October, and while the initial plan targeted a capacity of 50,000 fuel cells by 2025, Symbio is now eyeing this scale-up for 2026.

Symbio, jointly owned by Stellantis, Michelin, and Forvia (formerly Faurecia), equally, plans to establish a second gigafactory by 2028, with the ambition of achieving a total annual production capacity of 100,000 fuel cells.

However, questions arise regarding the demand for such a substantial volume of fuel cells. The spokesperson for Symbio acknowledged that Stellantis is the company’s largest customer currently, driving a significant portion of the manufacturing capacity to support its deployment plans for fuel-cell vehicles in Europe. Stellantis aims to roll out up to 10,000 light-duty hydrogen-powered vehicles next year.

While Symbio does have other customers in areas such as buses, coaches, and forklift applications, the exact production plans for 2026 and beyond remain uncertain.

Patrick Koller, CEO of Forvia, stated that Symbio, collectively with its parent companies, covers 75% of the Hydrogen mobility value chain, ranging from fuel cells to storage systems. He highlighted the company’s global impact, delivering 10,000 hydrogen tanks in 2022.

Symbio CEO Philippe Rosier emphasized the swift delivery of SymphonHY in less than two years as a testament to the company’s commitment to accelerating zero-emission hydrogen mobility deployment.

As Europe anticipates an increase in fuel-cell vehicles, particularly in heavy-duty applications, stricter emissions standards and the EU’s Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation are expected to drive the demand for hydrogen refueling stations across the continent. The regulation mandates the construction of hydrogen refueling stations at every “urban node” and every 200km along the core routes of the planned Trans-European Transport Network by 2030.