Vancouver-based Loop Energy, a developer and manufacturer of hydrogen fuel cell solutions, has unveiled its landmark 120 kW fuel cell system for deployment in the commercial mobility space. This important new product has the potential to revolutionize commercial transportation by achieving fuel cost parity with diesel. The 120 kW fuel cell system, the S1200, represents the second generation of Loop Energy’s bipolar eFlow panel technology and provides an additional 20% efficiency increase. The S1200 engine can deliver up to 60% of net system efficiency while maintaining overall fuel economy over a wide range of power demands.
In the words of Loop Energy President and CEO Ben Nyland: “At the heart of Loop’s eFlow technology is a distinctive trapezoidal plate design. Unlike older fuel cell systems, this design ensures improved uniform current density across the entire active area and increases gas velocity throughout across the board to deliver superior performance and water management.”
Meanwhile, London-based OEM Tevva has unveiled its Class 8 hydrogen electric 19-ton truck designed for the European market. The 19-ton Tevva hydrogen-electric model benefits from the company’s revolutionary dual power system, which combines lithium-ion batteries and a Loop’ Energy hydrogen fuel cell range extender. The truck is expected to have a range of 400 km. The partnership between Tevva and Loop Energy was originally built on 7.5-ton, Class 5, commercial delivery vehicles. Now, the companies are set to offer a disruptive bid in the heavy-duty category ahead of many OEMs struggling to compete against diesels internally. Tevva is well positioned to compete with Hyundai’s XCIENT fuel cell range deployed in 2020 in Switzerland. XCIENT is powered by two 95 kW fuel cells. Companies unconstrained by their customers and their traditions seem to be able to lead the market in offering clean technologies.
While Tevva has been covered in a recent article, learning about Loop Energy has been a longstanding goal. The following is a glimpse into Loop Energy based on a discussion with Ben Nyland.
The company was founded around 2000 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where it maintains its headquarters, research and manufacturing. In 2021, it received 19 fuel cell orders from 10 global customers and expected production to triple annually to reach 180 in 2023. However, due to a booming interest in clean transportation, 60 fuel cells had been sold by June resulting in 100 and 500 cell orders fuel in 2022 and 2023 respectively. This represents a 25-fold growth as hydrogen becomes a strategic fuel due to energy challenges in many markets.
Loop Energy recently set up a manufacturing facility north of Shanghai to boost its Chinese market; Support and distribution center in London to provide a strong customer base for the largest Tevva and European market; And a sales office in Milan. The company counts on 120 employees globally with a third of them dedicated to manufacturing. Historically, in terms of manufacturing, Loop Energy focused on assembling components into the final product; However, it has recently begun to vertically integrate manufacture of flowboard (or bipolar) plates for its new fuel cell production line. Flow board design is the most important intellectual property of the company.
To successfully deliver its products to potential customers, Loop Energy has created a separate internal group, Global Technical Services, with responsibilities to work with sales in order to understand customers’ technical requirements in order to deliver a product that meets those expectations. This group also implements the customer approval cycle which consists of three phases. The first stage begins with the deployment of a single unit and allowing the customer to test on a “bench” or evaluate in a mule cart. Global Technical Services Group works closely with the client to ensure that the deployment proceeds successfully. In the case of Tevva, Loop beat three other contestants with the merger in a mule cart that was running a day and a half. The second stage focuses on the scale with about ten vehicles or so. It also involves commercial publishing. The success story of the second phase is the Skywell Bus Company New Energy Vehicles Corp in China where 10 fuel cells were integrated over two weeks and entered service as a municipal bus in May 2021. What is even more attractive, due to Covid in China, all support was provided remotely. The third stage is commercial publishing, like Tevva, where the company decided to set up a distribution center to grow the business and provide dedicated support to its first commercial customer in the third stage.
As the fuel cell market evolves, so do new products and innovations in Loop Energy. Now offering products with second generation eFlow technology, which consists of narrow channels that improve current generation across the surface of the fuel cell, while accelerating the flow of reactants and products such as water vapor. During the reaction of the fuel cell on the cathode side, the oxygen is removed from the air and the remaining nitrogen absorbs the water vapor generated by the oxygen and hydrogen. The situation on the anode side of the fuel cell, where the hydrogen is reacting, is slightly different. The hydrogen there is dead end up under pressure and escapes through the membrane on the cathode side. As a result of eFlow innovation, efficiency is improved by up to 20% resulting in savings of $1 million in fuel costs in operating the fleet.
The second generation bipolar board design supports the new 120 kW platform. It continues to improve system efficiency up to 60% and maintain higher overall efficiency over a wider performance period, while maintaining over 40% at 120 kW. This platform will also allow Loop power to go to 200-300 kW for future customers as well as for more demanding deployments.