Hydrogen and innovation: driving change in the fuel cell industry - RINA.org

Driving change in the fuel cell industry

18 Aug 2020

Interview with Per Ekdunge, Executive Vice President of PowerCell Sweden AB

Developments in the fuel cell industry are gaining momentum, as the urgency over climate change and air quality accelerates a push for change.

We are observing a surge in interest for hydrogen and fuel cells from both the private and public sector. Major industrial companies such as Bosch, Cummins and IVECO are entering the space, while we also see renewed interest politically, as governments increase their support as part of strategies to tackle pollution and curb global warming.

The application of these new energy vectors is now starting to take off in the heavy transport sector. Increasingly, they are being used in the road transportation network on buses and trucks, but also in maritime and rail systems.

Here at PowerCell Sweden AB we are 100% devoted to fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. Our history dates back to the early 1990’s, when founder Per Ekdunge recognized the potential of fuel cells. PowerCell was subsequently founded in 2008 as an industrial spin-off from the Volvo Group, with the aim of developing and producing fuel cells and fuel cell systems.

Today, the company is producing fuel cells and fuel cell systems with unique high-power density for automotive, marine, and stationary applications. The fuel cells are powered by hydrogen, and produce electricity and heat with no emissions other than water. As the stacks and systems are compact, modular and scalable, they are easily adjusted to any customer requirement.

The company offers both fuel cell stacks and fuel cell systems. The latter includes the fuel cell stack, together with air supply systems, hydrogen management systems, cooling equipment, and control and safety systems. Expertise and knowledge of hydrogen and fuel cells varies widely among companies. We sell fuel cell stacks to those customers with a high level of experience, and expertise in designing and building their own fuel cell systems, for example original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the car industry. However, the majority of customers have less experience and expertise and prefer to take delivery of a complete fuel cell system. We also offer customers engineering support in order that they can integrate the fuel cell system into their own applications.

To cover the full range of applications and requirements, PowerCell offers fuel cells with power CER outputs ranging from a few kilowatts to several megawatts.

At the lower end of the scale we offer micro CHP for households, while the top end of the range includes power stations and back-up power systems for hospitals, factories and other large buildings. PowerCell’s two fuel cell stacks have outputs from 1 kW to 125 kW. With modular fuel cell systems based on these stacks, PowerCell can deliver megawatt solutions.

PowerCell always strives to innovate with the aim of developing products that represent real technological development which may be pioneers in their field. We allocate extensive resources to protecting our products with international patents covering the fundamental technology.

This strategy is aimed at building a strong and competitive patent portfolio so as to strengthen the company’s market position and facilitate investments in new products, services and technologies for our clients.

One of the major barriers for the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell products is the lack of harmonized regulations, codes and standards, however.

Here we believe certification bodies and consulting engineers such as RINA have an important role to play. A comprehensive set of applicable requirements and procedures for hydrogen and fuel cell technology installation and operation would reduce the time and cost of compliance. Recommendations aimed at the simplification of requirements, and procedures for facilitating compliance, would also greatly increase efficiency in the industry.

We are benefiting already from RINA’s project coordination on the Everywh2ere project, where it is leading several work elements and tasks such as logistics, safety and health analysis, as well as the regulatory framework and routes for replication.

Going forward, we are excited to start 2020 with our new Chinese subsidiary, PowerCell Fuel Cell (Shanghai) Co Ltd, up and running. Over the last two years, China has introduced important subsidies for vehicles which have been electrified using fuel cells.

PowerCell’s S2 is the only fuel cell stack with PEM (proton exchange membrane) technology in the market that can tolerate high levels of contamination in hydrogen and can be run on both reformate hydrogen and residual hydrogen.

The Chinese industry produces vast amounts of industrial residual hydrogen, making this stack ideally suited for the Chinese market. China is at the forefront of developments in the fuel cell industry and we believe it is crucial to have a presence in this key market going forward.