December 31 last year was the date on which work at H-Tec Education officially ended. Still, the Fuel Cell Store (fuelcellstore.com) will continue the brand, as well as production, distribution and customer service. However, it was reported that, following the decision, 13 employees had been let go.
A GP Joule spokesperson told H2-international that management had a hard time deciding whether to divest its teaching materials business, but development and production could not be sustained, given the circumstances. “The budgets for purchasing models to show the workings of this forward-looking technology at public schools, universities and other educational facilities have been cut year after year,” he said.
The industry was not all too surprised by GP Joule’s announcement. It is well known that companies operating in the education industry have been facing some tough times. One of the business’s competitors, Berlin-based Heliocentris, filed for bankruptcy protection as early as October 2016. Several others offering fuel cell courses have lamented the low attendance rates for their seminars. Consequently, the Energy Education and Training Center by the city of Ulm’s trade association WBZU has drastically cut the number of courses it provides. And the East Bavarian Technology Transfer Institute, or OTTI, another organization that had offered hydrogen and fuel cell seminars from time to time, had to close down entirely in May 2017.
GP Joule stressed that the close-down was not a case for the bankruptcy court. All employment contracts were terminated for operational reasons, and after advance notice. In early December last year, it was reported that Trygve Enterprises was planning to acquire the rights to the brand, plus assets linked to product development and manufacturing, by inking an asset deal with GP Joule. Trygve has its own brand called Fuel Cells ETC, known for custom-made fuel cell components. In 2013, the company bought the Fuel Cell Store, an online marketplace with multiple hydrogen and fuel cell offerings, particularly in the field of education. At that time, the store and H-Tec had already been in a long-term collaboration dating back to 1999.
GP Joule, a project company based in Reußenköge, Germany, acquired H-Tec in 2011. After shutting down the teaching materials division, it is now planning to focus on H-Tec’s remaining assets in hydrogen production and electrolyzer manufacturing.