Fuel cell industry grows despite COVID-19

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E4tech Fuel Cell Industry Review

In March 2021, the new Fuel Cell Industry Review 2020 was published, complete with market data and detailed analysis. Since 2014, the team led by E4tech has been contacting fuel cell companies from across the globe, aggregating their shipment figures and producing an independent report each year on the current state of the fuel cell sector. Several extracts are provided here.

2020 was not the year many of us expected. But despite the very difficult situation brought about by COVID-19, fuel cell shipments continued to rise. The increase was much less than we anticipated at the end of 2019, both because of supply chain disruption and local economic slowdown, but is a very encouraging sign.

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Fuel cell megawatt system for aviation

BALIS Test field
© DLR
© DLR

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.

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Nikola Motors – uncertainty is waning

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.

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Weichai Power – China’s largest diesel engine manufacturer on the fuel cell highway

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.

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Plug Power to produce electrolyzers and hydrogen

In my view, Plug Power [Nasdaq: PLUG] is definitely on the right track: Building and expanding liquid hydrogen production facilities while planning to acquire United Hydrogen. The latter’s 6.5-ton annual capacity should be raised to 10 tons, thus meeting 25 percent of Plug’s in-house demand, meaning eventually the profit margin can come from consumables. Plug is also negotiating with an electrolyzer manufacturer that could or should be absorbed. That all looks very good to me. In a few years’ time, Plug intends to cover more than 50 percent of its own production with green hydrogen.

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Europe drives ahead with hydrogen-powered vehicles

Electrolyser Linz
6-MW-electrolyser at the steel plant in
Linz, © voestalpine, H2FUTURE

Europe is leading the way in developing the breakthrough technologies needed to realise hydrogen’s energy potential. With hydrogen-powered buses and taxis being used across major cities, we have demonstrated that the technology can be used on a large scale.

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Hydrogen vehicles: Trends and outlook

Hyundai Truck
Trucks could benefit from fuel cell engines, © H2 Energy

This March, the German gas and water industries association DVGW published the findings of a study called “Hydrogen electric vehicles – trends and outlook,” which the organization had commissioned to evaluate the prospects for hydrogen in the transportation sector.

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Batteries for passenger cars – Fuel cells for trucks

The designers of the HDC-6-NEPTUNE Concept were inspired by the Streamliner Railway (1936-1959).
Design of the HDC-6-NEPTUNE Concept, inspired by the Streamliner Railway, © Hyundai Motor

Two years ago, the interest of German truck manufacturers and freight forwarders in fuel cells was extremely low. It’s different today. Almost all logistics companies are now in some way concerned with the question of what fuel their vehicles will be powered by in the future.

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Hydrogen is on everyone’s lips

Design draft of a future FC ship
Design draft of a future FC ship, © Havyard

While hydrogen in the maritime sector has only ever been treated as an option for the future under “far away” for years, not only the events at which this energy source is the subject of lively debate are currently on the increase, but also the reports on concrete projects.

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Load wheel with H2 drive

H2 cartridge exchange on Sneaker,
H2 cartridge exchange on Sneaker, © Olivier Frajman

In a joint action, various French stakeholders intend to launch a load tricycle with pedal support in the form of a fuel cell drive on the market in 2020. The bicycle manufacturer Cycleurope has teamed up with Bianchi and STOR-H Technologies for development.

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