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Germany-based Proton gears up for 15% annual growth in fuel cell market

Highlights

First 100 kW stacks ready for larger transportation

Modest H1 sales, automated plant ready to expand

Sector heavily committed to EU support programs

London — Proton Motor Power System's latest fuel cell stack module is ready for volume production in anticipation of 15% compound annual growth rate in global demand for hydrogen fuel cells, the UK-listed, Germany-based manufacturer said Aug. 18.

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An automated manufacturing line was installed at the company's headquarters in Puchheim near Munich in May last year, with the goal of increasing capacity up to 10,000 fuel cell units a year. This it said could be increased to 30,000-50,000 units with further investment in automation.

The AIM-listed company, which had modest first-half sales of GBP6.5 million ($8.56 million), has just designed a multi-stack system for power demands over 100 kW for larger trucks, trains, ships and stationary back-up power applications.

"Two of these systems will be used inside a mobility related application and will be delivered at the beginning of 2021," it said.

It had also set up partnerships with electrical drive train manufacturers to use its fuel cell stacks in combination with batteries for hybrid electric-driven light duty vehicles, inner city buses or for industrial power supply.

"We also expect growing demand in the near future from truck manufacturers for municipality maintenance vehicles," it said.

"During the first half of 2020, we also received orders from E-Trucks Europe for refuse collection trucks and from Vonovia SE for stationary systems and we entered into a framework agreement with APEX Energy Teterow for 10 containerized 100 kW fuel cell systems," it said.

On Aug. 10 Proton announced a first order from Shell New Energies for a fuel cell hybrid system to power Shell's own line of portable hydrogen refueling units for buses and trucks.

The system is to be used in an off-grid, portable hydrogen refueling unit, to be deployed as part of a joint project between Shell and a major European truck manufacturer on a test track.

From these small beginnings, fuel cell manufacturers like Proton are forecasting impressive growth driven by the flood of interest in the hydrogen economy.

A study by Grand View Research sized the 2019 global fuel cell market at $10.48 billion.

With a compound annual growth rate of 15.5% through 2020-27, the fuel cell market is expected to exceed $33 billion in 2027, Proton said.

It has positioned itself to benefit from European clean energy funds supporting hydrogen applications such as fuel cells, which convert hydrogen and oxygen into direct current electrical energy.

Proton is a founder member of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance (ECH2A), given a key role in the EU's hydrogen strategy July 8.

The strategy aims to install at least 6 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysis capacity by 2024 and 40 GW by 2030, as well as adapt infrastructure and boost demand in end-use sectors.

Meanwhile Proton is participating in the EU REVIVE project to install fuel cell powertrains into 15 refuse trucks across eight sites in Europe, and is a sub-supplier to the EU JIVE project, deploying 650 fuel cell buses and refueling infrastructure across five countries.

With 80% of its 2020 orders for stationary applications, however, the company's units are being used mainly for back-up power supply to telecom towers, data centers and for replacement of diesel generators.

Emerging market segments targeted by Proton included hydrogen battery hybrid vehicles (city buses, airport vehicles, trucks, off-road vehicles and fork lift trucks), ships (it is supplying a cruise liner in Hamburg) and rail (a first fuel cell train order for a 180 kW system is to be delivered in Q1 2021).