Panasonic, the Japanese electronics giant, is set to introduce its cutting-edge pure hydrogen fuel cells to the Chinese market. This ambitious endeavor aims to address China’s growing energy needs and reduce its carbon footprint. During a recent visit to one of its plants in Kusatsu, Shiga prefecture, Panasonic unveiled its plans for a greener future.
Panasonic’s foray into China’s energy landscape will be showcased at the upcoming China International Import Expo, scheduled from November 5 to 10 in Shanghai. This move underscores the company’s commitment to expanding its footprint in the global clean energy market.
The Kusatsu plant, where Panasonic has been manufacturing fuel cells since 2009, has been a significant player in the European household fuel battery market, boasting a substantial 70 percent market share. Over the years, it has produced an impressive 240,000 household fuel cells designed for everyday use. Now, Panasonic is gearing up to replicate this success in China, where the demand for clean energy solutions is rapidly growing.
As part of its broader environmental initiative, the Panasonic Green Impact campaign, launched in April last year, the company has been developing a revolutionary fuel cell named “Ene Farm.” This fuel cell utilizes a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to generate both electricity and heat. The goal of the campaign is to achieve net-zero in-house emissions by 2050, aligning perfectly with global efforts to combat climate change.
The Kusatsu plant is also home to a significant pure hydrogen fuel cell solution verification project. Covering an expansive area of 6,000 square meters, with 4,000 square meters of solar cells, this project operates 99 pure hydrogen fuel cells alongside rechargeable batteries boasting a capacity of 1.1 megawatt-hours. An advanced energy management system orchestrates these three energy sources to ensure a stable power supply regardless of weather conditions. The solar cells contribute approximately 20 percent of the total power supply, while the pure hydrogen fuel cells provide the remaining 80 percent.
However, despite its enormous potential, hydrogen has faced challenges due to its high production cost. Panasonic’s Norihiko Kawamura acknowledges this issue, stating that these fuel cells use 0.6 cubic meters of hydrogen to generate just 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity, amounting to a cost of JPY60 (41 US cents). Japan’s government is committed to reducing hydrogen prices, aiming for JPY30 per cubic meter by 2030 and JPY20 by 2050.
Panasonic has conducted verification processes since May 2022 and plans to utilize hydrogen fuel cells for industrial and commercial purposes in the coming year. However, expanding this technology to China is not without its challenges. The company faces issues related to hydrogen supply and equipment costs, including tariffs, value-added tax, and freight charges for exports from Japan to China. To make significant strides in the Chinese market, Panasonic is actively seeking support from the Chinese government and the implementation of favorable policies.
While Panasonic’s 5 KW cogeneration system, introduced this year, presents a demonstration project for urban areas in China, it encounters challenges such as the high cost of hydrogen, differences between China’s electrical power system and Japan’s, and competition from solid oxide fuel cells. Nevertheless, Panasonic’s entry into the Chinese market represents a crucial step towards a greener, more sustainable energy future.