Thanks to new management and fresh financial backing, Günther Schuh is intending to push on with his plans for German-based e.GO Mobile – including the incorporation of fuel cells. At the end of February 2021, nd Industrial Investments B.V. reported the successful conclusion of a Series B financing round which brought in funds of EUR 30 million. The Dutch investment group nd Industrial B.V. had previously taken over e.GO Mobile AG on Sept. 1, 2020, and transferred it to Next.e.GO Mobile SE. The money should ensure that production of the e.GO Life goes ahead in June 2021. Among the investors are the once U.S. finance minister John Snow, Formula E chairman Alejandro Agag and the actor Edward Norton.
As previously announced (see H2-international, August 2020), Daimler Truck and the Volvo Group have embarked upon a joint venture in which each company holds a 50 percent ownership stake. At the beginning of March 2021, the two organizations announced that the company formerly trading as Daimler Truck Fuel Cell GmbH & Co. KG had been renamed cellcentric GmbH & Co. KG.
According to company reports, the new joint venture intends to develop, manufacture and commercialize production-ready fuel cell systems for heavy trucks. The stated aim is to become a “world-leading manufacturer of fuel cells” in order to ensure that transportation becomes climate neutral and sustainable by the year 2050. Initial customer trials of fuel cell trucks are forecast for 2024, with series production due to commence in the second half of the decade.
A former coal region in Germany is attempting to transform itself: At the beginning of March 2021, in the city of Cottbus, German environment minister Svenja Schulze and Minister President of Brandenburg Dietmar Woidke started work on a new center of excellence. The PtX Lab Lausitz aims to become a think tank, discussion platform and launch pad for new projects focusing on green hydrogen and its derived products within Europe. Funding comes from an investment of around EUR 180 million from the structural enhancement law in the run-up to 2024.
In early March 2021, ElringKlinger and Plastic Omnium declared their intention to give fresh impetus to the production of fuel cell stacks and components with their new join venture – EKPO Fuel Cell Technologies. According to company reports, the aim of EKPO, in which ElringKlinger holds a 60 percent ownership stake, is to manufacture fuel cell components at competitive prices “at first mainly for commercial vehicles and buses and then also for cars.” A production figure of up to 10,000 stacks a year is forecast. Company bosses explained that there is sufficient production capacity available to be able to realize a sales volume of between EUR 700 million and EUR 1 billion by the year 2030 which equates to a market share of 10 percent to 15 percent.
EKPO is led by three company directors: Armin Diez from ElringKlinger is chief technical officer, his colleague Gernot Stellberger is chief financial officer, while Julien Etienne from Plastic Omnium New Energies takes up the role of chief marketing officer. An important part of the joint venture deal, which was struck in October 2020, was the takeover of ElringKlinger Fuelcell Systems Austria by Plastic Omnium.
The highs and lows of hydrogen and fuel cell stocks in recent weeks can be best described as a bumpy ride following a significant and rapid increase in prices. It seems to me that the market has entered a major consolidation phase. Yet this is no reason to lose faith, especially as the wild fluctuations that have been raging since early December 2020 – with some stocks climbing more than 50 percent inside a month – begged a correction. A process which is now in full swing. At the end of the day, it’s the future of the industry that counts and so here I stand by the old stock market maxim: The trend is your friend.
There has been a stark rise in the valuation of the business from around USD 100 million to now over USD 9 billion, with the stock price increasing from USD 1 – USD 2 to USD 29. I would go so far as to call it totally excessive. I got early wind of FuelCell Energy [Nasdaq: FCEL] as a turnaround after a management consultancy had “cleaned it up” and after the company had undergone a period of refinancing and restructuring and happily onboarded Orion Energy Partners as a key investor.
There are two sides to every story. And that’s very much the case with the planned cooperation with General Motors, GM, and the cancellation of 2,500 battery electric refuse trucks for Republic Services which turned out to be rather fortuitous in retrospect. In the GM scenario, Nikola would itself have had to spend over USD 700 million on tools, among other things. The participation of GM with USD 2 billion as a “valuable consideration” would have resulted in a dilution of the number of issued stocks.
Plug Power [Nasdaq: PLUG] has undergone one financing round after another, with a third bought deal sandwiched in between, this time to the tune of more than USD 1.7 billion. What’s more, the South Korean SK Group has promised to put up USD 1.6 billion in return for a 9.9 percent ownership stake in the company, an investment that will also form a basis for a joint venture between the two corporations. And if that’s not enough, Plug, which is headquartered in the U.S., intends to fit out delivery vehicles for France’s Renault Group. Plus, the company has been busy buying in top talent for its management team. That’s the good news.
The company Weichai Power, which I’ve so far only mentioned in this column as partnering Ballard, has a revenue around the EUR 20 billion mark and a stock market valuation of the same order. In 2020, a good EUR 1 billion was marked up as profit, with dividends also paid out. Weichai Power has several bus brands to its name and is the nation’s largest diesel engine manufacturer; it has clearly recognized the potential offered by fuel cells in the commercial vehicle sector and, in its own words, is intent on becoming the market leader.
That Tesla chief Elon Musk would, one way or another, place his trust in Bitcoin was to be expected. He had already stated his interest and his enthusiasm for the cryptocurrency many times in the past and had previously considered switching the whole of his corporate financing to this digital money format. Words turned to action, with Tesla investing USD 1.5 billion in bitcoins.