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China’s Fuel Cell Sector: New Entrants, Rapid Development Intensify Competition

In China, fuel cell stacks as well as systems are being actively developed. FOURIN has compiled about 20 development companies (as of November 2019), but there are many new entrants appearing in the sector. Unlike in Japan where FCEVs first appeared in the passenger vehicle sector, FCEV models in China were first launched in the commercial vehicle sector. For this reason, stack manufacturers that use carbon separators such as Ballard have become the mainstream for the time being. On the other hand, in order to improve stack performance, development of stacks that use stainless steel separators is also underway. In China, due to the high cost of parts related to fuel cells, most types are plug-in FCEVs that use a fuel-cell system with an output of around 30kW and fitted with a large number of drive batteries. However, as the output density of fuel cell systems needs to be improved, the need for compact stacks has increased and the development of stacks that use stainless steel separators has shifted into a higher gear. In addition, the strength of a stainless steel separator is higher than that of a carbon separator. For example, while the power source is the same 70kW stack, a stainless steel system has been developed that has more than doubled power density compared to the carbon system. Some new entrants, which are scheduled to start mass production after 2019, plan to develop a product lineup centering on stainless steel stacks. Two Chinese companies SHPT and Sinomec have completed development of a humidifier-less fuel cell system, technologically catching up with overseas manufacturers.
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