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Plug Power to create fuel cell value chain with Renault in Europe, SK in Asia

Plug Power to create fuel cell value chain with Renault in Europe, SK in Asia
Photo courtesy of Groupe Renault

French automaker Groupe Renault and Plug Power Inc., a global leader in fuel cell systems and hydrogen-related services, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to launch a 50-50 hydrogen joint venture (JV) based in France by the end of the first half of 2021. 

This strategic JV will position Groupe Renault and Plug Power to become key players in Europe in the research and development (R&D), transformation, manufacturing and sale of fuel cell-powered vehicles and hydrogen turn-key solutions in the coming years. 

This joint-venture platform will serve the fast-growing market of fuel cell light commercial vehicles, taxis, and commercial people transportation.

Bringing complementary and competitive strengths together, this joint venture will build on Groupe Renaultโ€™s pioneering experience in new energies and strong position in electric light commercial vehicles and on Plug Powerโ€™s 20 years of experience in fuel cell technologies and hydrogen solutions. 

In early January, Plug Power Inc. and SK Group, one of the leading South Korean business groups, announced their intent to form a strategic partnership to accelerate hydrogen as an alternative energy source in Asian markets. Through this partnership, Plug Power and SK Group intend to provide hydrogen fuel cell systems, hydrogen fueling stations, and electrolyzers to the South Korean and broader Asian markets. In conjunction with this partnership, the companies have also entered into a definitive agreement for SK Group to make a USD1.5 billion strategic investment in Plug Power and are announcing a plan to form a joint venture company in South Korea to support the rapidly growing Asian market. 

A global leader in hydrogen ecosystem solutions, Plug Power has deployed more than 40,000 fuel cell systems, designed and built 110 refueling stations that dispense more than 40 tons of hydrogen daily, and is a technology leader in green hydrogen solutions via electrolysis.The company intends to offer unique, comprehensive, differentiated products and solutions to the LCV market, designed around three key pillars:

R&D: Groupe Renault and Plug Power intend to establish an Innovation Center for the development of fuel cell technology and hydrogen fuel cell LCV vehicles based on existing and future Groupe Renault platforms. The initial focus will be on the heavy van segment utilizing the Traffic and Master vehicle platforms. This center will be unique in combining R&D efforts of fuel cell and vehicles with integrated engineering teams.

Manufacturing: the joint-venture will combine the vehicle manufacturing capabilities of Groupe Renault with the fuel cell and hydrogen system manufacturing knowledge of Plug Power, establishing a vertically integrated fuel cell stack and system manufacturing center in France for integration into LCV vehicle platforms. In addition, this manufacturing center will provide hydrogen refueling systems, a key part of the hydrogen ecosystem.

Sales: this partnership will create a hydrogen vehicle eco-system solution company that offers vehicles, hydrogen fueling stations, hydrogen fuel, and services to customers. This comprehensive solutions approach will accelerate adoption by commercial fleets.

The JV will start commercializing fuel cell LCVโ€™s in Europe starting in 2021 with pilot fleet deployments.

โ€œThis joint-venture project is fully aligned with our strategy to offer market ready H2 solutions for LCVs. With Plug Power, we will build a unique end-to-end fuel cell value chain and offer turnkey solutions for customers including vehicles, refueling stations and decarbonized hydrogen delivery. With this project, our ambition is to position France as a bridgehead of industrial, technical and commercial development in this key technology, and to strengthen our leadership in Europe as our objective is to become the European leader in fuel cell LCV,โ€ said Luca de Meo, CEO of Renault.

โ€œPlug Power prides itself on being at the leading edge of innovation in the hydrogen fuel cell industry, which is why we are thrilled to partner with Groupe Renault to become a leader of market fuel cell heavy vans in Europe. We look forward to working with our new partners to combine our technology with their decades long experience leading the European automotive market,โ€ said Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power.

Groupe Renault and Plug Power will provide the stand-alone joint venture with the required resources to achieve its objectives. Finalization of this joint venture is pending on the conditions normally applicable to this kind of operation, among which the presentation to employee representative bodies in accordance with applicable regulations and the potential clearance from the relevant competition authorities and should be completed by the end of the first half of 2021.

Santander Corporate & Investment Banking is acting as sole financial advisor.