Vancouver developer of fuel cell range extender for electric buses and trucks granted federal funding

Image: Loop Energy

Loop Energy has been awarded $760,000 from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) to support the development of the company's next generation zero-emission transportation fuel cell stack.

"These non-dilutive and non-repayable funds will be used to support the further development of our leading fuel cell technologies that are proving their ability to improve vehicle efficiency, reduce emissions and compete economically with incumbent technologies," said Ben Nyland, president and chief executive officer of Vancouver-based Loop Energy.

Loop Energy introduced a new range-extender (REX) power module for heavy-duty electric transport vehicles last November. Following a three-year development period, the Loop power module is being integrated by an original equipment manufacturer and will begin in-service operation this year.

While the light duty transportation sector is embroiled in a battle between electric and hydrogen fuel cell power trains for technological supremacy, the heavy duty vehicle market seeks to combine the two to provide the necessary heft to power more weighty vehicles over longer distances.

Fuel cell range extenders, or auxiliary power units, are critical to zero-emission trucks and buses as they extend the range of battery-electric systems using on-board hydrogen fuel. The Loop module makes range extension economically viable for a broad array of applications, Loop Energy said.

Crosstown rival Ballard Power Systems, another fuel cell developer, also announced this week it has entered into an $18 million supply contract with Chinese motor developer Zhongshan Broad-Ocean Motor Co., Ltd. The deal will support the deployment of 400 FCveloCity fuel cell engines integrated into clean energy buses and trucks in key Chinese cities as China rushes to address environmental concerns and advance the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.

Ballard said the complementary addition of its fuel cell systems effectively addresses the limitations of stand-alone battery solutions in certain use cases, resulting in growing demand for zero-emission and efficient propulsion systems that provide bus, truck and commercial vehicles with the traditional range and refuelling times provided by legacy diesel solutions.

The announcement, together with an $11 million transaction announced in April, means that Ballard is planning to support Broad-Ocean through the deployment of 600 fuel cell engines having a value of $29 million. Ballard also closed a strategic technology transfer, licensing and supply deal with Broad-Ocean in April, under which Broad-Ocean plans to set up three module assembly operations in China, representing a further $25 million to Ballard over five years. In 2016 Broad-Ocean became Ballard's largest shareholder, owning about 10 per cent of the company.

By optimizing air flow inside the fuel cell, Loop Energy said its patented eFlow fuel cell design produces far greater power density than industry-standard fuel cells. The higher power density allows Loop to simplify and increase the efficiency of the fuel cell stack and system. The Loop 56kW fuel cell power module can boost the range of battery electric vehicles by more than three times.

The module is turn-key, containing the air compressor and controls, enabling a drop-in solution for manufacturers of heavy-duty trucks and transit buses that want increased power and range for a reduced cost.

"We've found that our technology is a perfect fit for powering heavy-duty transit buses and Class 6 to 8 trucks with zero emissions," said Nyland.