Alas, fuel cell makers always seem to need more and more funds to reach commercialization. Just a year ago, fuel cell developer Intelligent Energy announced it had raised $13.6 million to help it reach commercial production. But this morning the Loughborough, England-based company says it has now raised yet another round of $30 million to fund “the next stage of growth” in order to reach commercialization. In total Intelligent Energy has raised $130 million from investors, with more than 80 percent of that coming from Meditor European Master Fund and F&C.
Fuel cells have always been perpetually years from commercialization, largely due to companies not being able to get costs low enough for massive scale. But Intelligent is one of the more established of the smaller fuel cell firms working towards commercialization. The company is eight years old, with 75 employees, and has a variety of deals under development, including: working on a motorcycle with Suzuki; a delivery vehicle (called the H2Origin) with PSA Peugeot Citroën; an airplane with Boeing (s BA) Research & Technology Europe; home power systems with energy company Scottish & Southern Energy, and taxis with the UK’s Technology Strategy Board.
Like most hydrogen fuel cells, Intelligent Energy’s technology uses hydrogen and air to produce power. Intelligent Energy says its technology is different than competitors in that it has more power density, and is able to fully function at very low temperatures (good for running vehicles in cold locales). In general fuel cells can be more efficient and less toxic compared to traditional combustion engines and batteries, and because they don’t have to be plugged into the power grid, they can be more mobile and used in remote locations that don’t have a power grid built out.
Clearly the long road to commercialization of fuel cells isn’t stopping investors from trying even in this recession. Back in April Lilliputian Systems said it had raised $28 million in VC funds partly to upgrade a pilot facility into “small-volume” manufacturing of its fuel cells for cell phones, laptops and other consumer electronics. But the market is also getting some help from the U.S. government: earlier this year the Department of Energy awarded $41.9 million to 12 companies working on portable fuel cells for electronics, and larger fuel cells for both backup power and vehicle applications.