From domestic to overseas hydrogen fuel industry chain enterprises to "go to sea" has a long way to go


Zhao Qiong


Domestic hydrogen fuel cell industry chain enterprises are accelerating "going to sea".


In the context of achieving the "dual carbon" goal and energy transformation, foreign countries are vigorously developing the hydrogen fuel industry chain, especially in Europe. Thanks to the leading advantage of the domestic market in the field of commercial vehicles, domestic hydrogen fuel cell industry chain enterprises are using the accumulated experience and advantages to seize overseas market opportunities.


Not long ago, the reporter of China Auto News interviewed Ma Jingnan, vice president of Reshaping Group, an exhibitor of Hannover MESse, Germany, and peeped into the current changes in overseas markets and the epitome of the domestic hydrogen fuel cell industry chain "going to sea".


"Qualitative changes" have taken place in overseas markets from working quietly to looking forward to


In the first half of this year, two international exhibitions attracted the active participation of domestic hydrogen fuel cell enterprises. These are the Tokyo Fuel Cell Show in March and the Hannover MESse in Germany in April.


"There are great expectations for the whole industry. Several exhibitions this year have brought together hydrogen energy industry chain suppliers from China, Europe and the United States." Ma Jingnan told reporters that as the world's largest industrial exhibition, the European International hydrogen fuel cell Exhibition can have an independent exhibition area at the Hannover MESse, covering the whole industry chain of hydrogen energy production, storage, transportation and use, which is enough to see Europe's attention to hydrogen energy.


The reporter learned that this year's Hannover MESse in Germany is more international, especially the large number of exhibitors from Chinese enterprises. In a total of more than 4,000 exhibitors, the number of Chinese enterprises more than 700, second only to German domestic exhibitors, which to a certain extent, reflects the determination of domestic hydrogen energy enterprises to "go to sea".


Yang Dawei, general manager of Jiangsu Kerun Membrane Materials Co., LTD., who participated in the European International Hydrogen Energy Fuel Cell Exhibition for the first time this year, said that he met many industry leaders in the field of hydrogen energy at the exhibition, deepened his understanding of the global hydrogen energy industry, and strengthened his determination to enter the international hydrogen energy market.


"Both domestic and foreign players in the hydrogen industry are quietly working hard." Ma Jingnan told reporters, "Hydrogen energy as an energy carrier, many people think that this is only an idea, now the entire industry is working for it." At present, a lot of hydrogen energy products have been launched in the domestic market, and the application scenarios at the market end have also made rapid progress. For example, Huafeng fuel cell launched TL Power 150 engine, which is a 150kW high-power hydrogen fuel system for intercity buses and heavy trucks; The company has launched the sixth generation of hydrogen fuel cell stacks to meet the needs of long-distance heavy trucks, ships and even distributed power generation for high power and long life of fuel cells.


"The overseas market is also moving. It's not stopping." Ma Jingnan stressed. As a participant and witness of the industry, Ma Jingnan can obviously feel that the European market has greatly improved its awareness of fuel cells and hydrogen energy from policy guidance, industrial chain clusters to the market end. In fact, at the International Automotive and Intelligent MOBILITY Expo (IAA MOBILITY) in Germany in September last year, some changes in the overseas hydrogen industry can be seen.


"There are not only magnitude changes in overseas markets, but also some qualitative changes." She believes that in 2023, technology based on fuel cells and hydrogen energy will gradually enter the public's vision and turn into commercialization. The industry is becoming more and more active and more and more residents have become a major trend at present. This will contribute to the development of commercial industrial clusters.


It is reported that driven by overseas market demand, enterprises including reshaping Group have also made new exploration in international cooperation. Not only at the level of product trading, but also include joint research and development of products.


It is a long way to go to accelerate the development of overseas markets


"In 2017, we began to think about what overseas markets can gradually develop, and began to commercialize the layout and began to think about product models." According to Ma Jingnan, the reshaping group has also gone through different stages in the layout of overseas business.


In July 2017, Reshaping Group officially established the Canadian team and established the North American research and development center in Vancouver; In March 2019, the first generation Polaris reactor independently designed and developed by Reshaping Group rolled off the assembly line in Vancouver R&D Center; In 2022, the Remodeling Group will set up a European office in Switzerland, responsible for European market development and after-sales service; In the same year, a fuel cell vehicle engineering service center was set up in Germany to build an engineering service team covering the European market.


With the expansion of overseas markets, reshaping the Group's products have also begun to land on the application side. In June last year, Remodeling Group launched the Fyuriant fuel cell retrofit heavy truck in partnership with German company Clean Logistics (CL). In September 2022, at the International Transport Fair in Germany, HyCraft, a fuel cell small commercial vehicle jointly developed by Reshaping Group and Schaeffler, was unveiled and so on.


In fact, the "going to sea" of the reshaping group is a microcosm of the current development of domestic hydrogen fuel cell enterprises.


Recently, there have been overseas orders news. For example, Hydro Technology signed a cooperation agreement with a Russian customer, and the two sides completed the signing of the first 200kW fuel cell system order; On March 30, Weichai Ballard Joint Venture company's hydrogen fuel heavy truck was exported to Australia; The export speed of membrane electrode enterprises such as Hongji Chuangneng and Wuhan Institute of Technology Hydrogen Electric; In the same month, Coclere successively signed seven domestic and foreign hydrogen production system orders, a series of products will be applied to new energy, gas, glass and other industries; In addition, Guofu Hydrogen Energy and Brazil YDRO signed a strategic cooperation agreement to jointly expand the Brazilian hydrogen energy market, the two sides will set up a joint venture company, the next three years plans to invest 300 million US dollars in Brazil.


In recent years, based on the broad application scenarios of hydrogen energy and the huge value of the industrial chain, the United States, Japan, South Korea and European countries have attached great importance to the development of hydrogen energy industry, and issued relevant development strategies and support policies. According to preliminary statistics, at present, 42 countries and regions in the world have issued hydrogen energy policies, and 36 countries and regions are preparing hydrogen energy policies.
Talking about the process of leading the reshaping group to expand overseas markets, Ma Jingnan frankly said that "resistance and harvest are there", and bluntly said that "this is a long way to go." In the experience of doing closed-loop projects in overseas markets, Ma Jingnan mentioned the need to uphold the "ecological thinking". The industry is still in the early stages of promotion, and it needs to work with local partners to push the industry forward, and in this process, it is crucial to find partners or suppliers with the same philosophy.


On the whole, the entire hydrogen industry is in a period of growth, and the development process of foreign markets and domestic markets still has more similarities. She told reporters that the hydrogen fuel cell industry chain is relatively long, if you want to implement the actual case, the commercialization of the closed loop, you need to open up hydrogen production, storage, transportation, processing, product preparation, downstream scenarios, product protection and so on. As an enterprise in the middle of the stream, Reshaping Group is based on making products, and pulls the closed loop of the entire industry with technology development and product commercialization.


The 'Chinese experience' is going overseas


"Compared with the Chinese market, overseas discussions on fuel cells have taken a longer time. However, in the pace of fuel cell commercialization and volume, China's pace in recent years is relatively fast, especially in the commercial vehicle." Talking about the "sea" experience, Ma Jingnan said that in the context of "carbon reduction", there is an urgent demand for the overall application of fuel cells and hydrogen energy in overseas markets. However, at present, the hydrogen energy industry is also facing some practical problems, including technology, regulations, market bottlenecks, etc., which need to be gradually solved.


It can be seen that at present, some hydrogen energy enterprises in China have been fully experienced in the competition in the domestic market, and have the strength to compete with foreign rivals in many fields. This also means that enterprises that have done demonstration application projects in the domestic market can graft their experience in technology, commercialization, ecological thinking, etc., to industries in demand in overseas markets.


However, Ma Jingnan also stressed that "in the process of expanding overseas markets, overseas policies, market environment and customer cultivation are more important links."
For the application of hydrogen fuel cells, the outside world is now known to be mainly for vehicle use, especially in the field of commercial vehicles. Judging from the current development situation of domestic and foreign markets, the application of commercial vehicles will be further expanded. "In addition, in the field of power generation, fuel cells also have relatively large application platforms. In the future, both the automotive and non-automotive sectors will need to be refocused." Ma Jingnan said.


It is worth noting that hydrogen refueling stations are also one of the bottlenecks in the development of hydrogen fuel cells in overseas markets. It is reported that there are already more than 100 hydrogen refueling stations in Germany. However, the overall number is still relatively small, and it is also restricted by some factors such as equipment stability. In addition, the rise in overseas natural gas prices has also brought a relatively big impact on the local hydrogen energy prices in Europe.


"We think fuel cell commercial vehicles will have a lot of interest in Europe over the next few years. However, if Europe wants to increase the volume, it also needs to follow the big projects of car companies to achieve a certain level of improvement. By the end of the second quarter of this year, Europe will have a relatively large increase in volume." For the expansion of hydrogen fuel cells in the field of overseas passenger vehicles, Ma Jingnan also mentioned that with Toyota's third-generation product iterations between 2025 and 2027, the scale of hydrogen fuel cell passenger vehicles will grow steadily. With the popularization of hydrogen refueling stations, the construction of the network foundation of hydrogen refueling stations and the corresponding reduction in the price of hydrogen, the passenger car field will also have relatively large growth.


It should be noted that in terms of passenger cars, pure electric vehicles have also performed very well in Germany in recent years. Therefore, the performance of hydrogen fuel cells in passenger cars in the future also needs to depend on consumers' considerations of driving range, convenience of charging or hydrogenation.


Originally published by China Automotive News on July 8, 2023