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AFC Energy tapped into growth of hydrogen fuel use

Snapshot

  • Has developed a scalable alkaline fuel cell system

  • The fuel cells use hydrogen to make clean electricity

  • To supply electric car charging and replace diesel generators

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Quick facts: AFC Energy PLC

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AIM:AFC
Market: AIM
Market Cap: £123.44 m
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We have the opportunity for clear first mover advantage in the EV charging market in particular and through the much-appreciated efforts of our employees and partners, look forwards to delivering on our commitments to support the UK's and international efforts towards a net zero society

Adam Bond, chief executive

How it's doing

AFC Energy PLC (LON:AFC) has concluded the majority of engineering design and signed agreements for its first commercial fuel cell systems as it closes in on bringing the product to market.

AFC's hydrogen fuel cells will have a low cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) compared to alternative generating systems, partially as a result of its ability to use lower quality and less expensive hydrogen sources.

Trials have shown that AFC's proprietary fuel cell system can use "off the shelf" ammonia cracking technology, with little difference in performance compared to hydrogen sourced from industrial plants.

The company is also working with various leading clean-tech specialists to build on existing commercial activities and establish alternative distribution channels to accelerate future growth.

In December, the company launched a zero-emission H-Power electric vehicle (EV) charging system, based on its scalable alkaline fuel cells, as well as unveiling a ‘blue-ribbon’ partnership with the British Motor Show 2020 to become the event's its official EV charging partner.

This was followed in January by the signing of a commercialisation agreement with green tech firm HiiROC to produce zero-emission hydrogen fuel from natural gas.

In June, it agreed to test its alkaline H-Power fuel cell technology at one of construction group ACCIONA's sites in Spain.

ACCIONA is one of Spain's renewable energy leaders as well as being a construction group and is looking at ways to decarbonise construction across Europe, said AFC.

Diesel generation from construction sites is a significant contributor to poor air quality, said AFC, and is likely to be increasingly regulated and enforced by governments.

Investors showed their appreciation of the progress by strongly backing a £31.6mln fundraise at 16p at the start of July.

AFC said the money would give it the capacity and flexibility to ramp up the manufacture of its H-Power fuel cell systems to meet expected demand over the next two years.

This will include combined 20kW and 160kW units, it said, and also a system that will be trialled by Spanish construction group ACCIONA in 2021.

Hydrogen revolution

AFC is one of the UK market leaders in what is becoming known as the hydrogen revolution, the development of technology that can transform hydrogen into a renewable energy source.

According to the Hydrogen Council, an industry group backed by companies such as BMW and Air Liquide, the hydrogen market could be worth around US$2.5trln by 2050 as part of a push to lower carbon emissions from transport and limit global warming to safer levels.

Hydrogen is seen as a key element of the UK government's recent announcement of a new target for the country to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which was on the back of a strongly worded report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

With the electricity grid often at full stretch and the CCC estimating that all new cars and vans should be electric within 16 years, “there is no way the grid can cope with that amount of extra demand”, says Adam Bond, AFC's chief executive.

“Hydrogen is the only solution to meet the demand,” Bond said, “and that is why the climate change report mentioned it on almost every page.”

New brands

In November, AFC Energy unveiled four new brands as its inaugural product line of hydrogen power technologies.

HydroX-Cell(L) is a zero-emission, high efficiency and low-cost alkaline fuel cell utilising a liquid electrolyte configured in 10 kilowatts (kW) modules, to be used in large scale industrial applications utilising lower grades of hydrogen.

A similar fuel cell, HydroX-Cell(S), is also due to be marketed, although unlike the (L) model it is a high current density alkaline fuel cell and can be used in both mobile and stationary applications.

The third brand, H-Power, is a group of hydrogen power systems including an off-grid electric vehicle (EV) charger, while the fourth product, AlkaMem, is a range of anionic exchange polymer membranes, used to separate fuel reactants between two electrodes inside the cell.

AFC believes its HydroX-Cell(S) fuel cell can “compete favourably” with alternate proton exchange membrane (PEM) technologies in the market.

There has also been early interest in the AlkaMem membrane technology following tests by one of the world’s largest electrolyser manufacturers.

What the boss says: Adam Bond, chief executive 

The important transition from diesel to sustainable power generation at the construction site is a key target market for AFC Energy since the launch of our H-Power system in late 2019. 

“This billion-dollar global industry has seen growing regulation, such as Europe's Non Road Mobile Machinery regulations, come into force and with that, a movement by constructors and contractors towards a more sustainable on-site power generation alternative to diesel". 

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Inflexion points

  • HydroX (S) cells can compete favourably with existing fuel cell technologies believes AFC
  • Systems can use low-grade hydrogen, which makes them cheaper and more efficient
  • The market for Alkamem, which was "encouraged" by early market interest, is worth US$1bn a year
  • July saw the group raise £31.6mln through a heavily oversubscribed placing and retail offer

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