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25 November, 2021 - 11:50 By Tony Quested

Deals at the double for Johnson Matthey

Johnson Matthey has shown its resilience via bounceback deals with Chinese and German partners following its recent decision to quit the battery materials arena and CEO Robert MacLeod’s decision to stand down.

A total of 170 zero emission heavy duty fuel cell vehicles powered by Shanghai REFIRE hydrogen fuel cells and Johnson Matthey technology have hit China’s roads in the last six months.

The ongoing partnership will produce systems to power up to 280 heavy duty Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) over the coming months, they add.

Fuel cell technology, as an alternative to diesel, provides compelling benefits in many regards; fast refuelling ensures round-the-clock operability, and fuel cell powered drive trains offer all the advantages of electric vehicles such as torque, comfort, low noise, cleaner mechanics, and better maintenance management. 

JM says that commercial FCEVs can pick up where more polluting drivetrains leave off and become the favoured solution for decarbonising supply chains.

Hydrogen fuel cells are electrochemical devices that combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity on demand, with only pure water as the by-product; FCEVs emit zero CO2 or other pollutants.

JM provides membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs), a performance-driving component that sits at the heart of the fuel cell, to REFIRE. In turn, REFIRE produces fuel cell systems that are integrated into commercial FCEVs.

REFIRE has already deployed systems powering over 2,700 commercial FCEVs across China during the past six years, which represents around 40 per cent of the total market. 

The real-world experience gained by the deployment of vehicles from light-duty and smaller trucks up to 49 tonne heavy-duty freightliners, is proving the value of FCEVs. With Europe now poised to accelerate its own transition to hydrogen energy, attention is increasingly turning to the experience gained in China.

Jo Godden, managing director of Fuel Cells for Johnson Matthey, said: “With their long range, low weight, and fast refuelling, it is becoming evident that FCEVs are ideally suited to decarbonising logistics and mass transit transportation. To deliver these applications at scale we have focused our efforts on optimising the critical fuel cell components to improve power output and efficiency in the stack. This is where the lab meets the road. 

“Our tight working relationship with REFIRE has enabled us to accelerate development and ensure that the scientific advances we are making translate into tested end user benefits.

“The recent opening of our dedicated MEA manufacturing facility in Shanghai, demonstrates our commitment to supporting local supply chains in China and for growing the market for FCEVs globally.”

JM has also signed a collaboration agreement with German company Hoeller Electrolyzer GmbH which has more than 25 years of expertise and pioneering work in proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology.

JM will collaborate with Hoeller Electrolyzer to provide catalyst coated membranes (CCMs) for the innovative PROMETHEUS range of PEM stacks developed for electrolyser systems. 

The collaboration will focus on joint R & D in conjunction with a fast-track manufacturing scale-up programme that will accelerate the launch of the PROMETHEUS stacks range within the next 12 months. 

The partnership will continue to develop next generation electrolyser stacks with greater efficiency levels – ultimately helping lower the costs associated with green hydrogen production.

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