On Dec. 14 and 15 last year, the German federal transportation ministry, BMVI, organized its NIP year-end conference “Clean Transportation by Hydrogen and Fuel Cell” to present the successes of the National Innovation Program Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology. Many project partners and politicians from across the country came to Berlin for the presentation of the results and to witness a fast and seamless transition into the next decade.
After one hydrogen filling station had each been installed in Wuppertal and Ulm in summer 2016, another three went into operation last fall. As reported previously (see Three New Hydrogen Filling Stations), the H2 pump at the Metzingen gas station south of Stuttgart came online on Sept. 23. Five days later, however, it had to be shut down again when a truck hit it. Its trailer had been caught in the pump, resulting in at least EUR 60,000 in damage.
During the NIP year-end conference by the German federal transportation ministry BMVI last Dec. 14 in Berlin, attendees seemed to be listening to a unique “success story”: EUR 700 million in incentives, almost 700 projects and around 500 industry partners for R&D and market preparation from 2006 through 2016. The program’s successes were presented by Germany’s transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt, and several managers of central NIP projects during two half days
Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh is looking to establish framework agreements with Chinese companies, as he believes the country to be a very promising market. China is said to have already invested more than USD 100 billion in fuel cell technology over the years, as it has recognized that there is large potential to tap (see Ballard). Talks with Chinese-based automotive suppliers are ongoing. In the US, Plug Power hopes that there will be other tax incentives for fuel cell vehicles. The investment tax credits have certainly been a factor in getting orders for forklift truck retrofits. Donald Trump, however, is said to be opposed to these types of incentives as much as in the wind and solar industry.
A new megatrend needs time to develop. The last 15 years established the foundation for the coming breakthrough of fuel cells and a steadily growing interest in their use. Here’s why: Historically, technological revolutions often needed 15 years before a breakthrough was achieved. But once you’re past that point, everything goes very quickly, since no market actor wants to remain on the sidelines. This is exactly what’s happening to the fuel cell across all markets and applications.
The persuasiveness of Tesla head Elon Musk resulted in more than 90 percent of Tesla and SolarCity shareholders following his recommendation and approving the takeover of the latter. Now, Tesla will expand its electric car portfolio by offering solar roofs. The impact of the merger on Tesla’s financials will show as early as the fourth quarter of 2016, when SolarCity’s results are added to the corporation’s balance sheet. The most important factor is the around USD 3 billion in debt.
FuelCell Energy’s stock went into free fall: Within a few days, the company’s shares had lost half of their value. Management didn’t even see the need to comment on the price drop for some time. On Dec.1, 2016, the Canadian business finally broke its silence and announced in a business update that it was letting go staff to adapt to new and lower projections of annual megawatt power closer to 25 than 50 MW. The move is reported to cut costs by USD 6 million each year.
Despite a higher-than-expected net loss of USD 1.9 million in the third quarter and only USD 6.7 million in revenue – down 30 percent from the same period the year prior – Hydrogenics could report a record USD 106.2 million in order bookings, of which USD 30 million should be realized within the next 12 months. One of the customers that had placed new orders was E.ON, and the integration of fuel cell stacks with trains and streetcars in collaboration with Alstom is turning out to be a success.
The German fuel cell manufacturer Proton Motor based in Puchheim had already experienced major management changes last summer, with Achim Loecher leaving his executive position at the end of July, and Thomas Melczer stepping down from both his executive and non-executive role in the company. Melczer became director of business development and investor relations at parent company Proton Power Systems in December 2010 and temporarily assumed the role of Proton Motor Fuel Cell’s CEO.
In early December 2016, Energy Saxony elected a new board during its general assembly meeting. The state energy technology association is now headed by Mandy Schipke, CEO of Novum engineering, and Frank Arnold, manager at Energie Sachsen Ost and Stadtwerke Dresden. The other newly elected members to the board were Dietmar Lauter, WISAG, Mareike Wolter, IKTS, and Thilo Bocklisch, professor at TU Dresden.