Day 1 – Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Group
Exhibit 2009, Hannover Fair
The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the flowers are
starting to open their faces for another year so of course this
could only mean that is time to lock ourselves away again for an
entire week in Hall 13 at the Hannover Fair.
The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Group Exhibit seems to have once again
grown in floor space with a good mix of companies from micro-companies,
such as Bac2, right up to global multinationals such as BASF.
Arriving mid morning it was interesting to see that whilst footfall
was definitely slow all the companies that I have spoken too have
said that already business has been brisk. The German presence
is somewhat overwhelming with 91 of the 148 exhibitors being listed
as German but this is perhaps unsurprising taking into account
not only its location and lack of issue with exchange rates but
also critically the relative strength of the German fuel cell industry
as compared with any other EU country.
This morning was my chance to finally get to meet the people behind
SFC Smart Fuel Cell, one of the industries leading lights. This
one company has sold and shipped 13,024 DMFC units in an increasing
array of markets. Interestingly for me off-grid power is one of
them. I say interestingly as this proto-trend has been bubbling
under for about a year or so now and Fuel Cell Today have noticed
an increasing numbers of companies flirting with this concept but
very few actually selling and shipping product. SFC Smart have
developed, alongside udomi a solar / fuel cell hybrid and have
been selling and shipping turn-key systems during the past year
and have started to build real traction in this area. The systems
are scalable and when designed in from the start can provide the
bridging gap needed from just a solar system. Although the fuel
cell is one of the key cost components of the unit the prices quoted
are not excessive when you take into account the value added that
they represent. Alongside this SFC Smart have a number of other
of their commercial products on view, from surveillance monitoring
equipment being used as track side monitoring on railway lines,
to delivery bikes being used by the German post office. The later
of these is just one of the vehicles available in the ride-and-drive
area outside. The only problem when you get out there to try the
vehicles is that riding in this lovely weather on a power assisted
bike is just really good fun and it is very hard to get off and
come back into an air conditioned hall! More from SFC Smart in
the full write up.
After lunch I managed to catch a presentation by Phil Doran of
CoreTech fame. Phil is a well known, and respected, speaker on
all issues to do with the finance sector and fuel cells and as
always it is was interesting to listen to him talk about what he
sees as failures of finance mechanisms in Europe. Phil’s
point, if I paraphrase this right, is that the European industry
is dominated by micro companies that have no revenue or cash flow.
As they have no, or little revenue, accessing finance mechanisms
such as EU funding, which requires matched funding, is impossible.
Also as they have no capital they cannot gain access to the debt
markets. When asked what model, or idea, he would like to see replicated
he suggested something like a scaled up Carbon Trust (UK) which
could be used to finance companies who are in such an early stage
of development. It was very interesting to watch the reaction to
his presentation as there is obviously often a disconnect between
the finance industry and the fuel cell industry.
One of the other clear trends, even from Day 1, is the mushrooming
of interest in high-temp PEMs with companies such as Bac2, Plug
Power and BASF here promoting their high-temp products.
Earlier in the week Bac2 press released that they are now selling
bipolar plates for high-temp PEM stacks. Within the last month
the new bipolar plate has been out of cell tested up to 250 degrees
C with stable results, with the operating temp expected to be around
200 degrees C. In terms of shipments the company reports that the
first order has already taken place but cannot give any hints as
to where. One point they were at pains to make is that they developed
a bipolar plate and have not done any in-house high-temp stack
Earlier in the week BASF also press released a new high-temp PEM
membrane to be launched at the Fair. Unfortunately we cannot provide
any more details on this as FCT was told that they would be unavailable
to speak to us.
Other companies which I spoke with today include Greenlight Innovations
and ICI Caldaie who are making a 30kWe PEM CHP unit. More on both
of these companies in the full event report.
View the online documentation from HANNOVER MESSE 2008!