While many parts of the sectors are working on scalability and rollout, Ballard Power Systems have taken proactive steps to reduce costs, with a 70% decrease for its bipolar plates.
Proving to be one of the most expensive aspects of hydrogen fuel cells, finding ways to reduce this for the next generation of graphite bipolar plates has been seen as a big win for Ballard Power Systems, and the future of scalability.
These next-generation plates will be commissioned in Q3/4 2025, which means that manufacturing capacity could increase to as high as a factor of ten. There will also be dramatic improvements in the yield of both resin and graphite.
This means that production times will be reduced, which is positive for the scalability of hydrogen fuel cells across the globe. The Canadian company are hopeful that this improvement in technology will further enhance the business case for developing the hydrogen economy.
3 by 3 stack reduction programme will reduce further costs
As part of a wider programme of stack cost reduction, there has also been research and development channelled into thin flexible graphite bipolar plates and the expansion of membrane electrode assembly manufacturing capacity.
Over the next two years, $18m is being invested in bipolar plate manufacturing, looking for ways to make the fuel cell run more effectively.
Speaking in a statement, Mark Biznek, Chief Operating Officer at Ballard said: “We’re thrilled to announce a project that delivers economic and environmental value for Ballard. Not only will we be able to reduce the cost of our bipolar plates and improve customer economics, but we will also consume far less energy, water and material resources in the process.”
70% costs reduction will incentivise further development in the field
Lee Sweetland, Vice-President of Transformational Projects at Ballard expanded on this: “Our 3 by 3 stack cost reduction has already validated a lower cost and higher quality flexible graphite that enables a 35% reduction in plate thickness and a 45% reduction in raw materials.”
These improvements will go a long way to meet the US Department of Energy’s 45/kW bipolar plate cost target. It highlights the important role of the government to push for innovation from the private sector with funding avenues for R&D and by setting ambitious targets.