The surprising takeover of the Canadian competitor Hydrogenics will also have a positive impact on Ballard Power’s stock market valuation: Both companies have been frontrunners in FC development for many years. Their activities overlap in rail vehicles and trucks. They are both absolutely tops: Hydrogenics with Alstom and Ballard with CRRC and Siemens. Ballard also has many other activities in the major markets of the future, such as the use of fuel cells in drones.
The success story of fuel cell trains to date is currently undergoing a severe setback: As the Kieler Nachrichten (news) recently reported, electric trains could roll through Schleswig-Holstein from 2022, but they are likely to be equipped with accumulators for energy storage and not with hydrogen.
Canadian producer Hydrogenics (Nasdqaq: HYGS) and British manufacturer ITM Power (London: ITM) aren’t entirely comparable, but they use similar technologies. There are some commonalities in the form of power-to-gas projects, hydrogen stations and powerful electrolyzers to generate the gas. Their market caps aren’t as far apart as I would expect based on the number and contract value of bookings. Both stocks have experienced severe price drops.
Fuel cell offerings for rolling stock are gaining traction these days. The number of regions debating investments in fuel cell trains is steadily growing. During a Nov. 9 press conference last year, Alstom – Europe’s only supplier of rolling stock powered by the technology – held a press conference in Wolfsburg to boost demand even further.
On Sept. 1, 2017, Jörg Nikutta became responsible for Alstom’s operations in Austria and Germany. The same day, he was also appointed spokesman for the board of management at Alstom Transport Deutschland. Nikutta used to work at Deutsche Bahn and now follows in the footsteps of Didier Pfleger, who has since been in charge of Alstom’s Middle East business.
The zero-emission future of the transportation sector has prompted an increasing number of energy policy debates on railroad electrification. At Hannover Messe, it was Alstom’s new fuel cell train that garnered much attention. After having been developed in less than two years, it had its first run in mid-March and will reportedly be used to transport passengers starting in 2018.
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.
If one takes into account order bookings, collaborations, product developments and prospective markets, buying shares of fuel cell companies looks ever more promising. But the capitalization of the market leaders in fuel cells described in this article amount to a mere USD 750 million – a stark contrast to Tesla, the electric car pioneer, which has a market cap of USD 34 billion. These companies may very well get closer over the coming years, if Tesla gradually loses in value while fuel cell shares increase considerably in price.
In the 1960s and 1970s, France’s industry and research departments used to be very proactive in fuel cell development. Then, 1974 came to pass and with it the slogan of “all-electric, all-nuclear” (tout-éléctrique, tout-nucléaire). The number of fuel cell projects fell drastically and remained at its low level until about the end of the 1990s. In the meantime, a great many subsidies have gone into nuclear industry developments: Billions were and are being spent through CEA (Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique) in this field.
Until recently, fuel cells have been of little importance in rail transport. This spring, however, the company CSR Qingdao Sifang Co., Ltd., which is based in eastern China, presented a tram which is driven with hydrogen. The new H2 tram, which features a fuel cell system from Ballard, left the production line in the port city of Qingdao