GM to Develop New Sources of Renewable Hydrogen with Norwegian Firm

Nel Hydrogen US, a subsidiary of Nel ASA in Oslo, Norway, has entered into a joint development agreement with General Motors Co. in Detroit to help accelerate the industrialization of Nel’s proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer platform.
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A General Motors fuel cell controls and process engineer operates a coating machine in the fuel cell laboratory at the GM Global Propulsion Systems Pontiac Engineering Center. // Courtesy of GM
A General Motors fuel cell controls and process engineer operates a coating machine in the fuel cell laboratory at the GM Global Propulsion Systems Pontiac Engineering Center. // Courtesy of GM

Nel Hydrogen US, a subsidiary of Nel ASA in Oslo, Norway, has entered into a joint development agreement with General Motors Co. in Detroit to help accelerate the industrialization of Nel’s proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer platform.

By combining GM’s fuel cell expertise and Nel’s knowledge of electrolyzers, the two companies are looking to enable more cost competitive sources of renewable hydrogen.

“General Motors is one of the global leaders in hydrogen fuel cell propulsion with more than 50 years of experience,” says Håkon Volldal CEO of Nel Hydrogen. “We believe this collaboration will give us a competitive advantage in industrializing the production of our PEM electrolyzers and further improving the efficiency of our technology.”

Nel claims to be the first company in the world with a fully automated alkaline electrolyzer production line. The next step will be to industrialize the production of its PEM electrolyzer equipment in a similar way which will enable considerable technology advancement.

GM is developing and commercializing both HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell and Ultium battery technologies that deliver high performance at an affordable cost. This is opening new revenue potential for GM as industries — including freight trucking, aerospace, power generation, and locomotive — turn to GM to improve performance and reduce emissions.

A PEM electrolyzer and a fuel cell are largely based on the same principles. A PEM electrolyzer uses electricity and water to produce hydrogen and oxygen, while a fuel cell reverses the process, using hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity and water. As GM has made major steps and gained expertise with fuel cells, the two companies see substantial synergies by transferring this to Nel’s PEM platform.

“Adding Nel as a strategic collaborator is an important step to help us commercialize fuel cell technology. Electrolysis is key to creating consistent, clean sources of hydrogen to power fuel cells,” says Charles Freese, executive director of global HYDROTEC at GM. “Nel has some of the most promising electrolyzer technology to help develop clean hydrogen infrastructure, and we believe our HYDROTEC fuel cell IP can help them get closer to scale.”

Volldal continues, “An automated production concept is key when scaling up and driving down cost on electrolyzer technology. By utilizing the combined expertise of both companies, it will help to more quickly develop a green hydrogen technology that is competitive with fossil fuels.”

Nel will be compensating GM for the development work and IP transfer on an ongoing basis and pay a license after successful commercialization dependent on how much of the product is based on GM technology.

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