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Swedish investment in Volvo’s PowerCell PEM fuel cell unit

Swedish automaker Volvo, through its subsidiary Volvo Technology Transfer, is to receive a total of SEK200 million (US$25m) from the Swedish Energy Agency and two international investors. The joint funding will be in the PEM fuel cell developer PowerCell Sweden AB, based in Gothenburg. PowerCell is developing auxiliary power units utilising PEM fuel cells, for use in trucks.

PowerCell Sweden is focusing on two patented components: a fuel reformer, and a PEM fuel cell – the type of fuel cell most often used in transportation applications. The reformer produces hydrogen from biofuels such as ethanol, dimethyl ether (DME), biogas, methanol and biodiesel, but also from regular diesel or gasoline. The PEM fuel cell then converts the hydrogen into electricity.

‘Thanks to our reformer technology, we are now ready to start our production without having to wait for an infrastructure for the distribution of hydrogen gas,’ says Per Wassén, investment director at Volvo Technology Transfer and chairman of PowerCell Sweden. ‘This is truly a major step in the development of fuel cells.’

This autumn, PowerCell Sweden will need to hire around 60 people at an entirely new PEM fuel cell development facility in the Gothenburg region. Wassén foresees that the company will create around 100 new jobs in the expanding fuel cell sector over the next three years.

PowerCell Sweden is currently owned by Volvo Technology Transfer, but the automotive firm will now be a minority owner. Volvo has been developing fuel cell and fuel processing technology for some 15 years.

Midroc New Technology develops and invests in future technologies within the clean tech and biomedical sectors. OCAS is a market-driven materials research center based in Belgium; it is participating through its sister company, the investment fund Finindus. OCAS will support PowerCell Sweden with the development and optimisation of materials and their implementation.The Swedish Energy Agency is providing a three-year loan of SEK30 million ($3.8m).

PowerCell was set up four years ago as a joint venture between Volvo and the Norwegian energy group Statoil (now StatoilHydro), to develop auxiliary power units based on PEM fuel cells, for use in trucks.

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