Fuel cell and electrolysis ramp up in China – takeaways from FCVC

Jun 17, 2024

Beginning of June, our Regional President, China, Mr. Yaowen Wang attended the yearly International Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCVC) congress and exhibition in Shanghai. Here are some of his reflections of the market trends and the development within the hydrogen industry in China.

One of the most prominent reflections after attending FCVC this year is that the hydrogen industry in China is maturing very fast. China is the largest producer of hydrogen at about 33 million tons, almost 30% of the global total, mostly from fossil fuels according to IEA. However, there is a clear interest in shifting focus from hydrogen production based on fossil fuels towards green hydrogen production from renewable energy sources. This will most likely further increase deployment of Chinese FCEV, fuel cell electric vehicles, and the use of hydrogen in other harder-to-abate sectors.

The increased interest in fuel cells was unquestionable at the FCVC exhibition. In 2023 the Chinese market saw a year-to-year increase in FCEVs of about 70% according to CAAM – the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Actual numbers are still modest, but it’s clear that the steady increase is having a maturing effect on the supply chains where we see more expert suppliers emerging in China and showing up at the trade shows.

When it comes to electrolysis, the interest in green hydrogen production utilizing electrolysis is increasing in China, but we are still in the early stages and the growth is not moving as fast as for the fuel cell sector. However, to drive the total demand for FCEVs hydrogen refueling stations (HRS) are needed to make FCEVs a viable consumer option and should in turn continue to increase focus on production of green hydrogen. We fully expect to see escalated interest in electrolysis from the market over the coming years.

The need for expertise close at hand

With these doubled anticipated ramp-up scenarios, the need for expertise to move to market according to increasing demand is a must for the industry players. So is the need for flexible and scalable production solutions with high availability – both geographically and financially.

For fuel cells, the ramp-up of production already seems to be entering a new gear, and several big, global companies are establishing production in China for fuel cell components, and in some instances for complete fuel cell systems. The focus is mainly on heavy-duty applications. For us, this means a great deal of interest in our Premium FC coating that was launched last year.

Yaowen Wang on stage presentation at FCVC 2024.

Premium FC Coating for heavy-duty applications

Our Premium FC coating is specifically developed for heavy-duty applications and can withstand potentials up to 1.6 volts without degradation and ion leakage which are the main factors for FC stack failure. The coating is extremely stable and can be applied in very thin layers for optimal production cost.

During FCVC, two of the most frequently asked questions were:
“How well does the Premium FC coating measure up against carbon coatings?”
“What is the difference between the Premium FC coating and carbon coatings?”

The main difference of course is that the Premium FC is not carbon based. In our opinion, the Premium FC coating is a top contender for heavy-duty applications and has the potential to outperform several carbon coatings. But we don’t want customers to take our word for it. We are currently supplying several customers with samples for testing in China.

The importance of scalability and redundancy in production

The last big advantage is that we can supply Premium FC matched to one of our INLINECOATER™ systems or supply it as Coating as a Service in our Coating Service Center in Shanghai. This means very low entry barriers for our customers, with full CAPEX control and our experts close at hand to fine-tune properties to the customers’ technical specifications.

With our own coating systems, the INLINECOATER™ family, we are in full control of both coating development and matching hardware development. All models in our INLINECOATER™ family are compact and designed for integration in automated production flows. This makes them optimal for scaling production capacity one machine at a time. As a result, our product-to-market fit is unbeatable at this market stage where volumes are still modest but prognosed to increase rapidly during the coming years. A steep ramp-up scenario with optimal control of investments is something even our competitors admit they have trouble matching as well as we do.

New market demands – increased demand for flexible production solutions

With the INLINECOATER™ systems design focused on modularity and flexibility, our customers also maintain the ability to upgrade and adapt the coating processes to new market demands for years to come. We are already selling upgrade kits for our Premium FC coating.

Seeing the industry, domestic and foreign, come together on our home turf in Shanghai, discussing future needs, and tapping into the development in the industry, myself and my team are certain that we will have a very busy time supporting customers for many years to come. This is just the starting point for China and the world. If anything, this year’s FCVC has underscored that the time for hydrogen is now.

For more information about our flexible coating solutions for fuel cells and electrolyzers, reach out to yaowen.wang@impactcoatings.com

Torbjörn Joelsson
Yaowen Wang Regional President, China