Intelligent Energy: commercialising the fuel cell
Intelligent Energy has become well known for developing innovative and highly efficient hydrogen fuel cells. The technology is used in applications like drones, material handling and mobile power generation.
It is now looking to mass produce purpose-designed fuel cell solutions for vehicles – including cars, buses and trucks – with the support of a grant from the Advanced Propulsion Centre to lead a collaborative research and development project known as ESTHER.
Moving from small scale to mass production is a challenge for any company, as Intelligent Energy Programme Director, Ashley Kells explains:
“Having a successful one-off idea, or a functioning technology demonstrator, is one thing, but turning it into a commercially viable product is something else. What we need to do is take that knowledge and transfer it into automated processes, while making sure that we’ve got security of supply. We’re also bringing forward a UK-based supply chain that can really reduce the cost of the product so that it’s viable for mass production.”
Value added by the APC
A key element of support from the APC is not only funding, but also introductions to key customers and supply partners.
“There is the obvious financial benefit [of receiving APC grant funding], but really the biggest benefits are in terms of the relationships that they help to form. The collaborative relationships and the knowledge that you gain amongst partners is something that you just couldn’t go out and buy.”
Through introductions made by the APC for the project consortium of ESTHER, Intelligent Energy is now working with one of the UK’s biggest bus manufacturers Alexander Dennis, the UK division of Chinese car manufacturer Changan, and power electronics specialist Lyra Electronics.
These partnerships have allowed Intelligent Energy to design its solution to meet the exact requirements of customers with large existing customer bases. Building, supporting and engaging with the UK hydrogen fuel cell supply chain is a vital part of how Intelligent Energy will capitalise on its technological advantage in fuel cells. Chief Commercial Officer, Greg Harris says:
“In terms of Proton-Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells for automotive applications, we’re the only UK company making that technology today. We’re a key part of that strategy for the UK. There’s a lot of supply chain opportunities and we are very focussed on having UK suppliers wherever possible for our products.”
With an increasing interest in low-carbon technologies and questions surrounding UK energy security, it certainly feels like an exciting time for Intelligent Energy.
“Now it really feels like rather than us going to the market, the market is coming to us,” says Harris. “We’re seeing huge demand coming from all sorts of industries for our fuel cell products and that makes it a hugely exciting time for us.”
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