In-depth

“We can do it”

“I think it is possible to solve the climate crisis. Obviously, we cannot do it by ourselves. We need supportive policy and funding, but I think it is technically feasible,” says Kathy Ayers, Nel’s Vice President of Research and Development.

In this brand new and exclusive video interview, she talks about the advantages of the PEM electrolyser technology, Nel’s partnership with General Motors, and the ongoing expansion of the manufacturing facility in Wallingford.

In the interview, Ayers explains why clean hydrogen is critical to the green transition.

"Even if you think that batteries will address many of the electrification needs, we still need hydrogen."

“Even if you think that batteries will address many of the electrification needs, we still need hydrogen. It’s so important as a chemical feedstock. And if we can’t find ways to make that renewable and sustainable, then we can’t reduce the carbon emissions from many industrial processes,” she says.

Ayers describes Nel’s journey from the beginning of the PEM division in Wallingford.

“To go all the way back, the PEM technology was developed by General Electric (GE), who was using it for aerospace,” says Ayers, explaining how employees from GE and Hamilton Sundstrand transferred that technology to Hamilton and used it to produce oxygen for submarine life support. Then, some of those same individuals decided to utilize the technology to generate hydrogen and founded Proton OnSite, which Nel later acquired.

PEM technology: A standout solution

“One of the main advantages of the PEM electrolysers is the smaller footprint because of the high current density we can use to operate these stacks and the very thin cell construction. The technology’s capability for high dynamic operations, responding swiftly to changes in energy input or demand output, makes it uniquely suited for sustainable energy solutions,” she says.

Since January 2023, Ayers and her technology team have worked closely with General Motors. The partnership combines Nel’s electrolyser expertise with GM’s knowledge of fuel cells and automotive manufacturing.

“Together, we are taking the PEM technology a giant step further,” she says.

"Moving things from the lab into a process that's automated is going to be really important because of the volumes that we need to reach."

Currently, Nel’s employees in Wallingford are in the middle of a very exciting transition process. The manufacturing facility’s annual production capacity is going from 50 to 500 MW, and it is also going from manual to automatic production.

“Moving things from the lab into an automated process is going to be important because of the volumes we need to reach,” Ayers says. The goal is to increase production from thousands to millions, catering to the growing demand for PEM electrolysis.

The project is a culmination of years of dedication, with many team members having devoted over two decades to this cause.

“It’s great to see that coming to fruition finally,” Ayers reflects with a sense of achievement and hope for the future.

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