The fuel cell working group of Germany’s association for the mechanical and plant engineering industry VDMA has been bolstered by the appointment of Fabian Kapp. At the general meeting held online in February 2021, the Gräbener Maschinentechnik director was elected to the board and now sits alongside four fellow board members. Kapp explained: “The working group has decided to take a new strategic direction and focus more intently on fuel cell manufacturing technologies.”
By the time of the next presidential election in 2022, France hopes to have regained the economic growth it last experienced in 2019. In order to stimulate the economy following the COVID-19 lockdown, the French government is rolling out a EUR 100 billion recovery program named France Relance. EUR 2 billion of the funds will be released over the next couple of years to support hydrogen projects. In total, the French government plans to channel EUR 7 billion of investment into this energy carrier in the runup to 2030. Meanwhile over the border, Germany has earmarked funds of EUR 9 billion to bolster its hydrogen sector. These financial stimulus packages and, moreover, the ambitions of these two countries to adopt a leadership stance in the future hydrogen economy, are also resulting in increasing efforts of French and German companies to work together.
In the German city of Oberhausen, a consortium is planning the development of a new hydrogen center. The Campus for Hydrogen Technologies Oberhausen, or HydrOB for short, aims to help bring hydrogen technologies to large corporations, the trade sector as well as private households. In order to support stakeholders at a local, regional and also international level and encourage the development of a hydrogen economy, the new center of excellence intends to provide production and laboratory space. Information events are also planned. Esther Stahl from the Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT told H2-international that digitalization expertise will also be an important focus for the new center. First, however, a detailed conceptual plan needs to be drawn up before the campus can open its doors which will not be until 2023 at the earliest. Participating in the initiative alongside Fraunhofer UMSICHT and Oberhausen authorities are MAN Energie Solutions and OQ Chemicals in addition to several regional organizations.
Hot on the heels of the fuel cell-powered motor glider HY4, which was awarded a test flight permit in late 2020 (see cover story in H2-international, February 2021), another venture was given the green light at the beginning of this year. As part of the follow-up BALIS project, whose approval arrived in just six weeks, the four-seater HY4 aircraft is set to become a 40-seater. On Jan. 21, Steffen Bilger, parliamentary state secretary at the German transportation ministry, handed over EUR 26 million in funding to Josef Kallo from the German aerospace center DLR.
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.
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.
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.