Could this be the automobile sector's version of the Reese's Peanut Butter cup? Paris-based Symbio is proposing something akin to mixing chocolate with peanut butter (never a bad thing, in our book) with the idea of adding a hydrogen fuel-cell range extender to a Renault electric vehicle.

Enter the HyKangoo.

Symbio is working with La Poste, France's postal service, and the vehicles in question are Renault Kangoo ZE vans. Those vehicles can go about 100 miles on a single charge in the best of situations, but between bad weather and hilly terrain, the realistic range is quite a bit less. Since most French postal vans travel more than 60 miles a day, going the pure EV route is a close call. Enter the HyKangoo (yep, that's what they're called). Symbio is adding a fuel-cell range-extender to the ZE, which expands the van's range to about 200 miles, all while keeping them emissions free. It's certainly an improvement over the current diesel-powered vans that La Poste uses and quite possibly the most advanced vehicle the French mail system has used since starting in 1576.

The cost? Not cheap. Symbio is targeting a pricetag of about 35,000 euros (about $48,000 US) once series production is achieved, according to Ecomento. That's another way of saying the cost is higher today. You can read more about this intriguing proposition as spelled out by Symbio in the press release below.
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Symbio FCell equips French Mail Post with Fuel Cell Range Extenders

DECEMBER 10, 2013, BREAKING NEWS!
The Franche-Comté region and La Poste (French postal service) are testing hydrogen based range extender kits from Symbio FCell in Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric mail delivery vehicles.

As part of a performance validation test in real working conditions, the Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric vehicles used by La Poste will be equipped with hydrogen fuel cell range extender kits by Symbio FCell. They will be deployed in the first quarter of 2014 on mail delivery platforms. These vehicles, with a combination of a hydrogen fuel cell and batteries, offer an extended range that performs even under the most demanding conditions: mail routes of 100 km or more through the cold, hilly and mountainous terrain. This system is expected to double the range of the electric cars used for postal delivery. This series of tests aims to demonstrate the advantages of the hydrogen fuel cell solution and verify that the extended range electric vehicles are practically the same as a diesel in terms of availability, flexibility and autonomy.

"The fuel cell solution improves winter working conditions for postal workers by providing better heating and defogging without impacting battery performance, "says Mr Jean-François Courtoy, Industrial Director at La Poste in Franche Comté. "In addition, it makes replacing the diesel vehicles that are used today for longer routes possible. This will significantly improve our level of global CO2 emissions".

The project is certified by the competitiveness cluster Pôle Vehicle of the Future and co-financed by the European regional development Fund (ERDF), the Franche-Comté Regional Council, the Belfort Territory General Council, the Belfort Urban Community and the Greater Dole Urban Community.

"Our role is to assess and facilitate development, but also to encourage the useful application of this breakthrough technology by citizens, entrepreneurs and policy makers," says Florent Petit, in charge of project management and Director at the UTBM (Belfort-Montbéliard University of Technology, a part of the FCellSYS platform, in collaboration with the LITEN Institute at the CEA - the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission).

"Symbio FCell is proud to participate in the improvement of urban area environments by facilitating the deployment of electric vehicles," says Fabio Ferrari, CEO at Symbio FCell, a hydrogen fuel cell and electric hybrid technology provider. "As of today, we can demonstrate that with long range electrical solutions, a viable business model exists for zero emission city center delivery."