Fuel cell membrane/MEA market dynamics

The core technology in PEM fuel cells remains the MEA and membrane. Stack technology is becoming a commodity. But the solution to a low cost long term durable high performance membrane is elusive. The major player Dupont still owns this market with their nafion category of products. Several challengers have risen to try their hand, but really have ben unable to make a major dent in Dupont’s nafion, or the industry need. By my guess the challengers still have only in the very low double digit millions in revenue.

As an example, rapid growing Hoku Scientific, the latest craze for investors, is on a run rate of c. $5 mm in revenue. It is even making a bit of money. However with a market cap of $150 mm, a bit aggressive.

Take note: That market cap is close to the total volumes of commercial PEM fuel cell sales for Hoku’s entire target customer base.

Polyfuel, another membrane producer, took the AIM route, and is of a similar size.

The problem for the membrane and MEA producers is 3 fold:

With the advent of the challengers, their is not a big enough near term market for any of them to grow profitably (the whole PEM fuel cell market in terms of cost for total pilot and commercial units shipped is well less than $200 mm/year)

  • PEM fuel cells are being supplanted in R&D spending by SOFC and DMFC or microPEMs (which either do not need membranes like these, or need far less square footage of membrane).
  • The prices and performance are still not where the fuel cell industry needs them to be to commercialize, even if it can get the rest of its act together.
Not an easy challenge.

Publicly traded MEA Companies:
Polyfuel (LSE:PYF.L)
Hoku Scientific (NASDAQNM:HOKU)

Privately held or divisions:
Dupont
3M
Gore

1 reply
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