LONDON–UK-based hydrogen fuel cell company Intelligent Energy has raised 7 million pounds (US$11.4 million) to develop manufacturing lines, an executive told Reuters on Thursday. The sale of a 3 percent stake brings the company’s fund-raising to 100 million pounds and values it at twice that, in a deal to be announced later on Thursday. Fuel cell technology is known as a perennial under-achiever as high costs have hampered its potential for clean, efficient power generation and relegated it to a back-up power provider.
Intelligent Energy says it has cut costs by engineering a less bulky product and is now focusing on developing production-line processes to try and compete with conventional car engines. “We’ve basically got there. We’re not having to invent anything. This is now putting it into manufacturing,” said the company’s head of fund-raising, Mark Lawson-Statham. “We’ll be putting in the first lines, the first manufacturing, to demonstrate how they’ll be made.”
“Our fuel cells are really small and very power dense,” he added, saying that the company had “engineered out” the packaging around a fuel cell that makes it work in an application. To compete in the light autos market, fuel cells should have a capital cost of about US$50 per kilowatt of power, said Lawson-Statham, referring to the US$5,000 cost of a conventional 100 kilowatt internal combustion engine. “We’re on track to produce car engines for automotive manufacturers at the same price as a traditional engine.” Fuel cells generate power through a controlled reaction between oxygen and a fuel such as hydrogen or natural gas. One additional rollout hurdle besides the cost of the fuel cell itself is the need to establish a new fueling infrastructure to compete with gasoline, such as a network of hydrogen filling stations. Intelligent Energy’s partners have included Scottish and Southern Energy for combined heat and power, Suzuki for scooter applications, and Boeing for aviation. The company is road-testing two fuel cell-powered London taxis for a larger rollout at next year’s Olympics.
Based in central England and founded in 2001, the loss-making university spin-out has about 200 staff in Britain, the United States and Bangalore, and its largely institutional shareholders include Black River, Credit Suisse and various pension funds. It expects to become cash breakeven next year.