Johnson Matthey plc (JM; London, U.K.) is expanding its fuel cell operations into China with a £7.5-million facility to manufacture critical components for customers in the region. The facility is now complete, with commissioning now in progress. JM expects the new site to be fully operational and serving its growing customers in China and beyond by January 2021.
Fuel cells are an attractive solution as societies take action to decarbonize emissions from transportation – one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions globally. They use clean or low carbon fuels, such as hydrogen, to generate power and produce no harmful emissions, with water as the only by product.
Through many years of collaborating with fuel cell suppliers in China, Johnson Matthey’s fuel cell technology is already powering more than 700 fuel-cell buses and commercial vehicles on China’s roads today and have clocked up more than 6.5 million kilometers of zero emission travel – equivalent to 350 round trips from JM’s UK site in Swindon to the new facility in Shanghai.
JM’s new facility sees the company expand its fuel cell component production outside of the UK for the first time and will initially create more than 25 new jobs. At capacity, the new plant will produce around four million membrane electrode assemblies (MEA), a vital part of the fuel cell stack, per year – enough to power more than 10,000 commercial vehicles and buses, avoiding 125,000 tons of CO2 emissions from China’s roads every year. This facility, together with investments to expand JM’s facility in the UK, will increase the company’s total annual capacity to more than six million MEAs by early 2021.
The handover of the new facility to JM from its construction contractor is well timed, coinciding with a Chinese government announcement that put in place new policies to support the development of fuel cell technologies. The measures include potential subsidies for companies like JM who are developing core fuel cell technology, with the aim to boost China’s competitive advantage in producing hydrogen powered vehicles.
Robert MacLeod, Chief Executive of Johnson Matthey said: “It’s a really exciting time for fuel cells with the market predicted to grow from the low £100 millions today to low £1 billions in 2030. JM has been deeply involved in technology development over many years – in fact we supplied the fuel cell components in the Apollo space missions back in 1969. But now the technology and JM’s long term commitment are really coming to fruition. I’m delighted that we have reached this important milestone at our brand new, state of the art facility in China, which will allow us to serve our customer base there even more closely with our leading technology. It’s great, too, to see the Chinese government’s support for fuel cell technologies as a key enabling technology for a cleaner, healthier world.”