Corvus Energy and Toyota team up to develop maritime fuel-cell systems

Source: press release, press conference

Corvus Energy production facilities in Bergen, Norway
Corvus Energy production facilities in Bergen, Norway (photo: Corvus Energy)

Energy storage pioneer Corvus Energy has announced the start of development and eventual production of sustainable, large scale maritime-certified hydrogen fuel-cell systems. Production will be in Bergen, Norway, with Toyota onboard as key partner and supplier of mass-produced fuel-cell technology.

Corvus is spearheading a collaboration with Norwegian partners Equinor, shipowners Norled and Wilhelmsen, ship design company LMG Marin, the NCE Maritime CleanTech cluster and R&D institution the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) to develop and produce modularised and cost-effective PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel-cell systems for the international marine market. The project has received EUR 5.2 million in funding from state agency Innovation Norway, bolstering Corvus’ front-runner position in clean technology for maritime and other sectors.

The development is scheduled to showcase its first marine fuel-cell system onboard a vessel in 2023 and the product will be marine certified and available for commercial delivery from 2024.

Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, describing the “ambitious green-shipping initiative” says, “We are in many ways living through extraordinary times – and I’m not only thinking of the challenges posed by the pandemic – I’m also thinking of all the technological advances we are witnessing taking place. Great things can happen when new ideas, entrepreneurial drive, and innovative companies come together.”

The Prime Minster went on to emphasise the Norwegian government’s goal of reducing emissions 50% for domestic shipping and fisheries by 2030: “This is an example of the long tradition of collaboration and knowledge sharing, both within the maritime sector, but also between sectors such as energy and mobility.”

Corvus and Toyota enters MoU towards marine deployment of fuel cells
The initiative combines Norwegian maritime expertise together with fuel-cell modules supplied by one of the world’s largest fuel-cell producers, Toyota, which has 30 years’ experience in the development and production of fuel cells for the car market and other land-based applications.

Corvus and Toyota signed a partnership on 18 December 2020. The agreement secures Corvus access to proven fuel-cell technology while enabling large-scale production and competitive pricing. The production will be Norway’s first of its kind, strengthening the country’s pole position in the global efforts towards decarbonising shipping.

A vision of zero emissions: Corvus Energy CEO Geir Bjørkeli
A vision of zero emissions: Corvus Energy CEO Geir Bjørkeli (photo: Corvus Energy)

Interest in hydrogen for maritime applications has been increasing rapidly, with hydrogen power seen as an important step to reach shipping’s ambitious goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050. Reducing the cost of fuel cells and increasing access to the technology is crucial to accelerate the transition. The initiative represents an important step towards achieving both goals by producing modularised systems not available on a large scale today. The Corvus-Toyota partnership will become a strong player enabling a significant increase in capacity of marine fuel cells to the market.

“Adding fuel-cell modules to our product portfolio is a natural step for Corvus and advances our vision to be the leading supplier of zero-emission marine solutions. Fuel-cell technology has reached a maturity level where scale-up of systems will be the next step. Toyota is in the forefront of the development and is by far the best partner for us to make this a success,” says Corvus Energy CEO Geir Bjørkeli.

“Decarbonisation is inevitable and at Toyota, we are convinced that hydrogen will play a central role in creating a better future, both environmentally and economically. Our recently established Fuel Cell Business group in Brussels is looking forward to working with Corvus Energy and the consortium members to offer fuel cell solutions for marine applications. This project will play an important role in the development of the Hydrogen Society,” says Thiebault Paquet, Director of the Fuel Cell Business Group at Toyota Motor Europe.

Corvus’ new dedicated fuel-cell division will design and certify the marine fuel-cell system using the Toyota fuel-cell technology as a building block for larger systems. Furthermore, a specific marine control system uniting the battery and fuel-cell operation will be developed for easy integration with power management systems from a range of system integrators.

Freddy Bergsma, Senior Manager Strategy & Business Development, Fuel Cell Business Group, at Toyota Europe, describes the evolution of fuel cells developed for passenger cars, saying, “We already have 30 years of fuel cell development already under our belt, and we believe the time is right.”

“And this base technology that we’ve developed that we are now looking to use in other applications as well,” explains Bergsma, stressing the technology’s versatility. “Starting with the basic knowledge we have today, we’ve repackaged that into what we call the ‘standard module approach’, which produces a compact module that can be used in a variety of applications.” The approach facilitates mass production and efficiency, which ensures quality, Bergsma adds.

Kristian Holmefjord, Corvus EVP & Project Director for the fuel cell technology, says, “We cannot reach zero emissions on batteries alone. We believe the combination of clean fuel and fuel cells, together with batteries, is the answer to meet zero emissions on marine vessels.”

“Fuel cells and batteries complement each other perfectly, while the optimisation between them will be a crucial aspect,” Holmefjord explains. “Factors such as vessel size, costs and operational flexibility will drive the input to define the perfect hybridisation onboard your vessel.”

Ownership and collaboration in green shipping initiatives
Backed by strong owners in the form of Norsk Hydro, Equinor, Shell and BW Group, Corvus plans to scale up production to mirror its world-leading position in battery systems.

The development partners USN and NCE Maritime CleanTech will contribute knowledge within hydrogen safety, while Equinor, Norled, Wilhelmsen and LMG Marin will bring key experience from ongoing hydrogen projects.