Ballard – A partnership to accelerate the adoption of the fuel cell for trucks

Ballard – Partnership to Accelerate Fuel Cell Truck Adoption.

As GHG emissions from critical trucking applications, such as freight and logistics, grow at a faster rate than any other sector, market-ready solutions for zero-emission trucks are becoming a key priority.

For fleet operators looking to decarbonize their operations, fuel cell power and range is an attractive option, but efficient vehicle integration is a key requirement for operators to make a smooth transition.

Zero-emission fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) developed by QUANTRON will incorporate Ballard fuel cell products for various truck applications in Europe and the United States, including last mile delivery, tractors for long-distance transport and garbage collection vehicles. Ballard will be QUANTRON’s exclusive fuel cell supplier for these truck platforms.

Michael Perschke, CEO of QUANTRON AG, and Nicolas Pocard de Ballard, Vice President, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships, met to discuss the benefits of joining a vehicle integration expert and a battery supplier to leading fuel.

Q: After working together over the past year, what do you see as the strengths of the QUANTRON and Ballard partnership?

Michael PerschkeCEO, QUANTRON AG said:

I generally think the market is very excited about the partnership between QUANTRON and Ballard.

“QUANTRON is seen as an agile and innovative player with a strong pedigree in commercial vehicle retrofitting, acquired from the Haller Group, while Ballard is widely recognized as one of the best fuel cell suppliers based on experience. on the road to business. live.”

“From QUANTRON’s perspective, we are now taking our competence in zero-emission transmission retrofits to the next level by applying what we have learned in light commercial vehicles to heavy trucks and, by partnering with Ballard, we are now in able to provide a complete solution based on the proven capability of the Ballard fuel cell.

Nicolas PocardVice President, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships, said:

I completely agree.

“Ballard’s core business is developing fuel cell engines. We are not a vehicle integrator, but one of the strengths Ballard brings to the collaboration is our deep knowledge and expertise in fuel cell technology to help our partner bring fuel cell trucks to market faster.

“In addition to the agility mentioned by Michael, I think the strong technical team Michael and Andreas Haller [Founder and Chairman of the Board] created in QUANTRON is an ideal partnership. Both parties are fully dedicated to advancing electromobility, we understand the benefits of hydrogen and how it complements battery-electric mobility.

“This is important because zero-emissions capability is not a battle between batteries and fuel cells – there are cases where battery power makes 100% sense, and also there are instances where you need a fuel cell to avoid compromising the range and payload of your vehicle.

“QUANTRON has understood this very well and is investing in the development of the market. For Ballard, this means we have a partner ready to mobilize resources quickly to meet the demand from end users who need to transition to zero-emission mobility.

Q: How have your current and potential customers reacted to the partnership?

Michael: “I think our customers see a logical connection; two strong and experienced partners, with a solid understanding of customer requirements and what is needed to put a capable and rugged FCEV truck on the road.

“We have received similar feedback from investors who welcome Ballard’s arrival as a lead technology investor, adding an extra push to QUANTRON’s journey to become a specialty OEM. »

“By combining our expertise, we are getting closer to large, established OEMs who may not have the same level of technical expertise in fuel cell systems and their integration. I also think it shows that Ballard is “following the lead” in investing to be faster and more agile.

Nicolas: “Absolutely, this partnership aims to accelerate the adoption of fuel cells and to put fleets of fuel cell trucks on the road, not just two to five units for a test drive. We don’t wait on the sidelines for the market to happen, we invest in a solution.

“We can also put this in the context of the investments we are making in developing larger fuel cell products for the heavy-duty market. In parallel, we are also delivering on our vision to bring fuel cell vehicles to the road with an investment in battery manufacturer Forsee Power and the acquisition of powertrain integration specialist Ballard Motive Solutions ( BMS).

Q: You both mention that speed to market is key. What can QUANTRON and Ballard offer customers that is different from established OEMs?

Nicolas: “Speed ​​is important because there are few offers on the market today. Most solutions are battery electric options for lighter vehicles and last mile deliveries, but when it comes to heavy trucks – or even lighter vehicles for longer distances, long hours, multiple shifts, etc. – there are very few options for fleet operators. to choose from as they consider decarbonizing their trucks. »

Michael: “A special feature that QUANTRON brings to the customer is that we offer our customers not only the vehicles, but a complete ecosystem called “QUANTRON as a Service”. “

“In cooperation with Ballard, QUANTRON will become a platform for hydrogen solutions and realize the production of green H2 and electricity as well as the distribution of hydrogen via QUANTRON charging stations for hydrogen and solutions recharge for the zero-emission fleet.”

Q: Which customer groups are early adopters of FCEV trucks?

Michael: “Certain industries and use cases, such as freight and logistics involving heavy goods, wholesale and chilled food distribution, are clear examples of applications with a demanding duty cycle that drains the battery of electric trucks.”

“Similarly, applications with challenging topographies and long runs will benefit from the power and longer range of fuel cells. That said, I think the real driver for early adopters will be companies that want to be pioneers in achieving ESG compliance and for which zero-emissions operations are at the top of their strategic priorities.

Nicolas: “Yes, companies with a strong ESG mandate, like delivery companies, know that their customers don’t want a diesel truck to deliver their goods, they want a clean vehicle. These companies have already made strong commitments to significantly reduce or offset their carbon footprint. »

“Small operators that are under pressure to compete will likely continue to rely on funded or subsidized programs until FCEVs reach volumes that make them comparable to electric alternatives.”

Q: What have been the biggest barriers to FCEV truck adoption so far?

Michael: “For early adopters, this includes understanding what it takes to become a pioneer – understanding their zero-emissions options, what suits their use cases (or duty cycles), and setting goals. It’s about selling solutions, not selling products.

“This is another key strength of the QUANTRON and Ballard partnership – both companies understand the importance of helping customers understand where they stand with their carbon footprint as well as their decarbonization challenges.”

Nicolas: “When looking at what is slowing down the adoption of hydrogen mobility in heavy and medium trucks, it should not be defined by the integration of the powertrain, the fuel cell, the battery or the vehicle integration.

“Ballard’s most recent investments – Forsee, BMS and QUANTRON – all serve the vision of simplifying powertrain integration, reducing life cycle cost, improving vehicle performance, and then bringing these products to market. faster in a truck, using the expertise of QUANTRON.”

Q: Is the cost of FCEV trucks a barrier?

Nicolas: “Today, we can’t deny that a fuel cell truck costs more than a diesel truck. We compete with an established and mature industry that manufactures hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of vehicles. So yes, I think we have a price barrier today.

“We are addressing this problem at the fuel cell level by aggressively driving cost reduction through investments in innovation and simplifying products by moving from multi-cell systems to a single-cell design. We are trying to drastically reduce components and simplify systems, as well as industrialize and increase our manufacturing processes. »

Michael: “In the meantime, buyers can get support through government incentives available in some countries. For example, in Germany, incentives cover up to 80% of the cost difference between a new fuel cell truck and a diesel truck. »

“This kind of support is critical at this early stage of market development where low volumes compete with the cost of mature technology.”

Nicolas: “However, as an industry, not just Ballard, we have a very strong focus on cost reduction. Yes, today fuel cells are more expensive, but the industry is on the right track to fundamentally reduce costs.

“When you look at the BOM, there’s no reason a fuel cell should be more expensive than a diesel engine whenever we make it on a large scale. I think that’s a very important part. We are not dependent on a large number of raw materials and raw materials that can fluctuate, it is all about product design and manufacturing performance – and the industry is very good at doing this.

Q: Can you give us a preview of what to expect?

Michael: “The next exciting step for QUANTRON is to unveil our heavy vehicle at the IAA Transportation event in Hannover, Germany in September. You can expect to see the first hydrogen vehicles in late spring 2023.”

“In a second step, we are working on realizing the production of green hydrogen and electricity as a platform for hydrogen solutions and in the future to offer QUANTRON refueling stations with zero-emission solutions. We also plan to expand the business globally, starting with the opening of our office in the United States and have further plans for the Middle East.

Partnership to Accelerate Fuel Cell Adoption for Trucks, September 20, 2022

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