Fuel cell EVs become more common in heavy industry applications

(Image courtesy of Anglo American Platinum).

Ballard Power Systems (NASDAQ: BLDP; TSX: BLDP), the company with the technology adopted by Anglo American Platinum at the Khomanani mine in South Africa, announced that its materials have powered fuel cell electric vehicles in commercial heavy- and medium-duty applications for more than 50 million kilometres on roads around the globe.

In a press release, Ballard said that the figure represents an increase of over five times since 2017.  Approximately 70% of the more than 50 million kilometres have been achieved in FCEVs deployed in China, with the remaining vehicles deployed in Europe and North America. 

Anglo American Platinum incorporated the technology into locomotives at its Khomanani mine in South Africa

According to the company, its proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technology has been integrated into some 2,200 commercial trucks.

In the case of Anglo American Platinum, the system was incorporated into locomotives at  Khomanani with the goal of having a more environmentally friendly and safer means of underground transportation, as well as greater energy efficiency than traditional rail transport.

The miner also plans to rebuild more than 400 mine-haul trucks to use hydrogen fuel, with a pilot project starting next year at its open-pit Mogalakwena mine, also in South Africa. A 3.5-megawatt electrolyzer will produce hydrogen on-site.

Since Ballard’s PEMFC stacks contain platinum as a catalyst, introducing the technology into Amplats’ operations has been described as a win-win decision. 

“At Anglo American, we believe that with platinum at its heart, a South African fuel cell industry would support the country’s drive for jobs and help to meet its energy challenges,” Cynthia Carroll, Amplats’ chairperson, said last year.

On the other hand, Randy MacEwen, Ballard’s president and CEO, highlighted the fact that decarbonizing heavy commercial vehicles has become a priority in many countries.

“[These vehicles] disproportionately contribute to transport emissions and have been difficult to abate – until now. The total addressable market for engines in these vehicles exceeds $130 billion annually,” he said.