The Chinese joint venture Ballard Hy-Energy Technologies (Weichai Ballard JV) has ordered membrane electrode assemblies worth $19.2M from the Canadian fuel cell specialist Ballard Power Systems. These will be used in FC vehicles for the Chinese market.
In August 2018, the two companies announced that Weichai Power would become the largest shareholder in Ballard Power Systems with 19.9 per cent. At the time, the Chinese company invested around 163 million dollars in the Canadian company. At the same time, the partners also announced the establishment of the joint venture mentioned above. Weichai holds 51 per cent and Ballard 49 per cent of the joint venture.
The joint venture’s first production facility is expected to go into operation in the first half of 2020 in the Chinese province of Shandong and will have capacities for 20,000 stacks and 10,000 modules for use in fuel cell vehicles for the Chinese market. Weichai Ballard will purchase the membrane electrode assemblies (MEA) from its Canadian parent company.
This supply agreement already played a role in the preliminary considerations for the joint venture: As early as August 2018, it was announced that Ballard would contribute the MEAs – a core component for fuel cells. It was also negotiated that the joint venture would pay $90 million to Ballard as part of a technology transfer program to obtain exclusive rights to manufacture Ballard’s LCS fuel cell stacks for commercial vehicles in China. And Weichai undertook to sell at least 2,000 commercial vehicle fuel cell modules in China by 2021 as part of the strategic cooperation between the two companies.
But back to the 19.2 million dollar deal mentioned above. Ballard President Randy MacEwen said of the agreement: “We have a simple shared vision with Weichai Power for our Weichai-Ballard JV – to create the leading fuel cell stack and module technology and manufacturing operation in China for buses, commercial trucks and forklifts.” He summed up that: “In 2019, together with Weichai, we staffed up the JV, co-developed fuel cell products for the China market, substantially completed construction of the JV manufacturing facility, progressed on our manufacturing equipment, processes and automation, initiated localisation of the supply chain, and supported initial vehicle testing.” Ballard is well-placed in China since only this year the Chinese government announced an increased focus on fuel cell vehicles.
Even beyond Ballard’s activities in China, this has been a busy year for Ballard generally. The Canadian company is making great strides in the fuel cell technology for larger, longer-distance vehicles, where hydrogen fuel cell technology has most advantages: In Europe, Ballard joined a consortium of hydrogen and bus companies that have united to create H2Bus to popularise the technology across the European continent. Ballard also provided fuel cells for Britains first fuel cell train HydroFlex which began testing this year. And on the water, Ballard Power Systems announced its collaboration with ABB and other consortium partners to develop a fuel cell tug boat for inland waterway vessels, as well as working on the first sea-going hydrogen ferry in Scotland.
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