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Hyzon Motors plans fuel cell material production facility near Chicago

Second expansion since agreeing to $570 million SPAC sponsorship

Hyzon Motors is opening an innovation center near Chicago where it plans to build 12,000 fuel cell components a year and add 50 high-tech jobs. (Photos: Hyzon)

Hyzon Motors plans to make a key component of fuel cell powertrains for commercial vehicles at a new facility near Chicago. It expects to break a bottleneck to producing hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles in the U.S.

Hyzon is a spinoff of Singapore-based Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies. It is rapidly expanding after agreeing to merge with shell company Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: DCRB) in February. The business combination is expected to close in the second quarter. through which Hyzon will get $570 million in capital raised by DCRB

Last July, Hyzon purchased the General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) former fuel cell headquarters and laboratories near Rochester, New York. It is expanding to a second area facility and adding 100 jobs.

Breaking a bottleneck

The new facility in Bolingbrook, Illinois, is planned as a high-volume maker of membrane electrode assembly (MEA). MEAs account for about 70% of the cost of a fuel cell stack. Hyzon’s energy-dense models provide up to 150 kilowatts (kW). It is preparing to make 370kW systems, equivalent to 500 horsepower for heavy-duty trucks and buses.

“The new Hyzon Innovation Center is essential to our strategy to expand the U.S. hydrogen supply chain, reduce fuel cell costs for commercialization and create local jobs,” Hyzon co-founder and Chairman George Gu said.

Hyzon chose the Chicago area because its many universities provides a pool of high-tech talent to fill 50 jobs Hyzon expects to create. Chicago is also home to Argonne National Laboratory, a federal facility working toward decarbonization.

“We have in-house, world-leading, mature MEA technologies developed over 17 years,” Gu told FreightWaves. “No partners are needed for that part. However, we are exploring partnerships for electrolyzer and solid-state battery development. And we are looking for partners to start hydrogen vehicle commercialization in the Midwest.”

Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV), which recently announced a fuel cell collaboration with GM and has a separate fuel cell project with Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI), is based in the Chicago suburb of Lisle.

The new facility will make about 12,000 MEAs a year. Some will be used in Hyzon zero-emission fuel cell trucks. The rest will be sold to other fuel cell makers, breaking a bottleneck in MEA availability and reducing costs through mass production, Gu said.

Advanced research

MEAs are produced in Canada, Europe, Japan, Korea and China at commercial scale. Producing 12,000 MEAs a year would outstrip commercial trucking demand. All major truck makers are exploring fuel cells for long-haul trucking. But production is not expected until the mid-to-late decade — and then in limited numbers.

“We see a substantial uptake in Europe already and anticipate North America will soon follow suit on this decarbonization journey for heavy transport,” Hyzon co-founder and CEO Craig Knight said.

In addition to MEA production, the Hyzon Innovation Center will conduct research and development on materials for fuel cells, electrolyzers, solid-state batteries, advanced e-drive systems, autonomous driving technologies and green hydrogen production technologies.

Hyzon has an autonomous fuel cell vehicle project in testing in the United Kingdom.

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.