China is assembling pieces to scale up fuel cells as part of its New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) strategy. State-owned Weichai Power has announced a strategic partnership with UK’s leading solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) producer Ceres Power. The go to market approach will be integrating Ceres 30 kW SteelCell® fuel cells as range extenders for China’s rapidly growing electric bus fleet. The flexible fuel architecture of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) allows fleet operators to use hydrogen or compressed natural gas as their fuel source.
Weichai Power is a leading automobile and heavy equipment manufacturer producing 600,000 engines per year. The deal, which includes a potential equity stake up to £40m, gives the Chinese state-owned OEM access to technology from a long-time solid oxide fuel cell maker. In return, Ceres Power gains access to the fastest growing fuel cell market in the world. Fuel cell advocates have gain confirmation that the most likely end game for New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) is the integration of battery plus fuel cells (plus supercapacitors).
End Game = Batteries Plus Fuel Cells
The deal’s focus on fuel cells as range extenders adds to the narrative that scaling up electric vehicles (defined by their motor, not a battery) requires an integration mindset.
Global OEMs are signaling a strategy that moves beyond battery-only mindset for NEVs. Toyota, Daimler, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai continue to advance battery and fuel cell vehicles. (Ceres Power has built out strategic partnerships with Honda, Nissan, and Cummins.)
Yet the most high impact efforts are in heavy duty vehicles – notably trucks and buses which emit more CO2 and consume more fuel than passenger vehicles.
In Hawaii, Chinese electric bus leader BYD and US Hybrid have announced plans to build the first integrated fuel cell battery hybrid. (US Hybrid has another agreement with China’s Dewei to deliver fuel cell engines)
Startup truck maker Nikola is partnering with Powercell and Bosch to manufacture hundreds of thousands of battery plus fuel cells class 8 trucks.
The transition from a global transportation market built upon internal combustion and diesel engine architecture is going to take decades to unfold. With this partnership, it appears China is assuming a more active role in accelerating this transition and bringing fuel cells into the mainstream conversation on New Energy Vehicles (NEVs).
Announcement: Ceres + Weichai Power
Ceres Power Steel Cell Technology
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