5 Takeaways from FC Expo in Tokyo

Mar 30, 2023

Our President Korea, Kristian Hillgren Ph.D., is back in HQ in Sweden after hectic days in Tokyo and the yearly FC Expo show. Here are his 5 key take aways, starting with the fact that the show is back, and it’s back big time.

First impressions of FC Expo

Coming back to Japan and FC Expo was a great experience. Not only is the show back – it’s bigger and better than before.

Apart from this first positive impression, the most obvious take away from the show is that electrolyzers have transitioned from backseat to front row in the industry.

FC Expo, as the name implies, used to be mostly about fuel cells, but nowadays there is a huge interest in solutions for electrolyzers and green hydrogen. Actually, the hydrogen exhibition appeared to be bigger and draw more attention from visitors than the battery show in the hall across, which just goes to show that hydrogen has matured beyond the lengthy discussion of whether mobility should be powered by batteries or fuel cells.

Impact Coatings’ booth at the FC Expo

The electrolysis industry is accelerating

Another conclusion from the show, is that we now see a clear trend that fuel cell customers are showing interest in electrolysis and looking for a starting point for development. This shift has come suddenly. When we introduced our coating solutions for water electrolysis, the interest was there, but it has grown substantially these past months. Today, we see well-known fuel cell players moving rapidly in this new direction. This of course gives us a good head start after being part of the fuel cell industry for more than a decade.

Coating Services and a pressing time to market

Apart from having the experience from years of developing coating solutions for fuel cells, being able to offer Coating Services and samples of our electrolysis coatings means we have a good shot at being part of the future electrolysis solutions.

Customers are now on the lookout for possibilities to test, verify and scale up a fitting coating technology for their electrolyzer manufacturing. To do so, they need immediate availability of samples and guidance. Most importantly, they understand that apart from finding a suitable coating for their electrolyzer plates, they also need to future proof the solution and make sure it is ready for industrialized production when volumes take off.

In this context, it is great to be able to tell them that our coating machines for coating of electrolyzer plates are used for continuous production in our Coating Service Center in Sweden as we speak. Not many suppliers have production up and running at this early stage.

Large formats equal big challenges

Another important take away, that we have been aware of for some time but which is in fact becoming more and more evident, is that electrolyzers means going big, and size brings about some special challenges.

One such challenge revolves around how to handle coating of smaller volumes of these large format plates and large format porous transport layers. For coating purposes, you obviously need a big machine to handle the large formats, but going too big too early comes with its own set of risks and challenges. A big coating system is a big investment. You might not need the full capacity of a big coating system for years to come and it’s costly to run. You also have less control and less flexibility to handle different volume scenarios.

From our perspective, modular scaling seems more reasonable from a customer point of view. With our latest, large-format-ready, flexible coating system – the INLINECOTER™ IC2000 – volumes can scale with maximum control. Since the system is integration ready, volume capacity can be built over time with several systems. This also adds the benefit of redundancy to the production capacity.

Moving forward, closer collaboration will be key

Last but not least, close collaboration is key to success for several reasons. To be back at FC Expo was a good reminder of why we have our own personnel stationed in Asia. To accelerate time to market, these next years will mean all-hands-on-deck for the hydrogen industry. For electrolyzers, the need for local support is even greater, not only expertise to accelerate development, but to minimize risks with logistics, to save time and unwanted administration, and to reduce shipping of large format parts for the electrolyzer stacks. It goes without saying that much of the sustainability benefits will be lost in transit if we ship parts back and forth.

All in all, FC Expo offered us solid confirmation that we have a strong offer matching our customers’ needs, and that the hydrogen industry now collectively is ramping up. We look forward to continuing the conversations. If you are interested and want more information, reach out to kristian.hillgren@impactcoatings.com

Introducing Stefan Dreger, President EMEA, Hydrogen Solutions

Kristian Hillgren, Ph.D.
President Korea