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PowerUp Fuel Cells OÜ

Next-generation hydrogen fuel cell generators

Estonia
Market: Transport, Electronics, Drones
Stage of the project: Prototype or product is ready

Date of last change: 08.07.2020
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Idea

PowerUp is a producer of the best-in-class hydrogen fuel cell based electric generators and PEM fuel cells. The generators have many use cases in different industries. Our development roadmap envisages a full product family that extends from 200 W up to 15 kW. PowerUp’s goal is to replace dirty diesel generators and heavy batteries. UP400 is a breakthrough innovation that is more efficient, zero-emission, compact, silent and has substantially lower total cost of operation. These reasons make the UP400 far superior than diesel powered or other available generators on the market.

Current Status

5 distributors secured in Europe and the U.S. We are doing pre-sales and alpha testing currently. The product will be ready for market in October 2020.

Market

Our go-to market is sailing and yachting market, because this market segment has shown a lot of interest in a product such as ours and these customers are less price sensitive. Afterwards we can easily expand to recreational vehicle, military, drone, electric vehicle and other markets, where back-up power is required. Our biggest market will be refrigerated transportation market.
In Denmark, we are implementing these generators on electric service vehicles (police, ambulance etc) to extend the range of the vehicle.

Problem or Opportunity

Diesel generators and batteries have been the main source of back-up power for far too long. The consumption of 1L of diesel emits on average 2.7 kg of CO2 . Compared to other sources of power, diesel generators tend to have an outsized impact on pollution. It does not just create carbon monoxide but also other air pollutants such as particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. In light of European policies and regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and the underpinnings of the Paris Agreement, diesel generators are destined to lose their position to cleaner alternatives of energy generation.
Diesel generators also contribute to noise pollution and have a high upfront cost and servicing and maintenance works are expensive. In cold weather, starting the generator can be problematic. It can be overcome by the application of glow plugs and other heating elements which warms up the engine including the incoming air. Once again, this come at an additional cost. Further, diesel generators emit hazardous exhaust fumes, are heavy and not easily portable. Diesel generators are most often combined with batteries for energy storage, although this combination poses some disadvantages. Batteries are far too heavy for many applications, discharge quickly
and have long recharging times. It is also known that batteries use up scarce natural resources, build up photochemical smog and cause air acidification.
Clean alternatives such as wind turbines or batteries are weather dependent, thus unreliable and overall unsuitable for many applications.

Solution (product or service)

PowerUp Fuel Cells is developing a range of beyond state-of-the-art hydrogen powered portable electric generators to offer multiple customer groups a clean alternative to “dirty” and noisy diesel generators. Our flagship product UP400 is the only product on the market that combines proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, supercapacitors, lithium-ion batteries into one product. Our power electronics module handles high currents at low voltages. Operation at high currents and low voltages will usually require large wires and overall connections within the electronics and system itself, because of high resistance of most of commonly used materials and high number of electrons passing through the materials. This will usually result in increased mass of the system. We have found a way to combine all up-to-date technology and novel materials from scientific labs into our electronics. UP400 is a small generator weighing 10 kilograms and is the size of a toolbox. The solution gives out 400 W continuous power at 12/24 volts, depending on end- users’ needs.
The UP400 works on pure hydrogen gas. Hydrogen gas is directed into the fuel cell and a chemical reaction strips its electrons. Negatively charged electrons provide the current through wires. As long as there is hydrogen and oxygen supply, fuel cells will generate electricity. There are ventilation holes in the generator through which it gets a continuous supply of oxygen. UP400 has a battery pack and a super capacitor as the system components to store the electricity generated by the fuel cell.

UP400 is an innovation that includes the following breakthrough benefits that no other generator on the market has:
a) nearly twice as efficient as diesel generators;
b) can deliver battery-like performance while being 10x lighter than Li-ion batteries and 20x lighter than lead acid batteries;
c) substantially lower total cost of operation than petrol or diesel generators, particularly at lower loads (<100W);
d) environmentally friendly – the chemical reaction within fuel cells is not a combustion process but a chemical reaction that does not create any emissions besides clean water and heat;
e) compactness, portability and lightweight – this ensures practicality and convenience. Markets that gain the most from weight saving are EVs, military, maritime and camping;
f) requires minimal annual servicing – cooling fans are the only moving components in the system, hence there will be no costs on oils and belts and maintenance works. In fact, users are not allowed to open the generator, as everything is sealed to make the product waterproof and there will never be any maintenance needed from the user’s side. In case of any errors or faults, we kindly ask the generator to be shipped back to us for repairs or exchange;
g) silent and odorless operation – these features make it a perfect solution for off-grid homes, camper vans, military and various other markets;
h) “smart-grid” – although wind turbines and solar panels are often seen as competing products, we encourage our customers to combine these technologies with our generator. It is possible to store the excess energy from the sun or wind in our generator and use it later, on demand. This allows boats, homes and camper vans to become energy neutral and independent from the grid. UP400 is the first generator on the market that has this capacity.

Competitors

The whole PowerUp product family, including the first commercial product UP400, faces competition from a range of power generation technologies that seek to make diesel generators obsolete, such as fuel cell based (technologically closest), diesel and fossil-fuel based generators as well as solar panels, wind turbines and hydro generators.

For power generation it is possible to use ‘traditional’ clean electricity sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels, although these alternatives are weather dependent, thus unreliable and already proven not to fit many applications. The market segments we target can hardly gain from these technologies. Petrol, gas and other generators have similar problems as that of diesel generators. Although hydro generators have a high efficiency, certain criteria must be met. Firstly, the vessel must be in motion before energy can be generated. The second restriction that reduces efficiency is that the vessel must not be moving too slow, otherwise electricity generation will be low or non-existent.
Fuel cell based generators are yet to establish themselves on the market. There are only a few options available, more popular have been methanol-based generators (Efoy Comfort) that pose a threat to humans as methanol is extremely toxic. Although methanol is widely available, these generators require a special purity of methanol that can only be obtained from SFC Energy (Efoy producer). Hydromax 150 by Dynad International BV works on a mixture of malic acid and a saline solution but has its own limitations as well. The most popular fuel cell generator is made by Efoy, but methanol can only be bought from them, which sets huge limits, shipping costs and delays. Further, these generators are not as efficient, because first methanol or some other element is converted into hydrogen, which in turn is used to generate electricity. With every conversion, there are energy efficiency losses.

Advantages or differentiators

The first generator with such unique features - can be stacked to raise power output, can be turned into a smart grid, designed for harsh marine conditions.

Finance

Our main revenue comes from direct sales and distributor sales. The product has premium pricing as it is one of the most unique and innovative generator in the world. It sells for 8500€ per unit, but we will also have recurring revenue through hydrogen cylinder renting.
We offer customers trade-in service, whereas they can send their old (UP brand) generator to us and its value will be subtracted from a new generator's price.

Business model

PowerUp Fuel Cells will sell a range of fuel cell based power generators under its own UP® brand. PowerUp is the assembler of subsystems and manufacturer of some subsystems such as fuel cell stacks, foam composition and power electronics.
We intend to be known for producing high performance, reliable, and durable clean energy sources to satisfy diverse end user needs. To enhance our product offering, we shall provide value-added services for customers:
1) regular maintenance and service, provided by both, PowerUp and trained distributors. The UP400 is a durable product that at low usage (1,5h per day) will operate for 9+ years, according to product simulations. At 4h per day usage it will last for at least 3,5 years. Product lifetime is limited by the fuel cell stack, which lifetime has a guarantee of 5000 operating hours, but usual lifetime can reach 20 000+ hours. Generators have a guarantee of 4 years. Air filter have a lifespan of 1080 operating hours. At normal energy consumption the filter will be operational for 720 days. If working in dustier or more polluted areas, the lifespan may shorten. If product failures occur, customers are asked to ship the product back to us. PowerUp will take care of product errors and spare parts changing. In case users operate the generators in dusty or sandy locations (mines, desert), they may be trained to change the air filters themselves.
2) trade-in service. Our products are based on circular economy model and once their lifetime ends, customers do not have to buy the whole product again. The generator should be shipped to us, whereas the necessary components will be exchanged (in most cases fuel cell stacks and outer casing) and the product is again fully functional. Depending on the components and the amount of work, customers are expected to be eligible for up to 60% discount of the original price for a new generator. This service will be carried out exclusively by PowerUp.

Money will be spent on

IP management and product certification
Marketing and sales
Medium-scale production

Offer for investor

500k at 5M valuation, thus 10% equity

Team or Management

Risks

Company's future is dependent on investment. Other risks include entrance of new competitors and lack of hydrogen infrastructure.

Incubation/Acceleration programs accomplishment

SkyDeck in California (finished).
EstLat Accelerate in Estonia and Latvia (finished)
ESA-BIC in Estonia (member 2017-2020)
Climate-KIC in Estonia (member 2017-2020)
Poland Prize 2019
K-Startup Grand Challenge 2019

Won the competition and other awards

1. Best starting company of 2019 award by Estonian Association of SME’s
2. TOP40 in Entrepreneurship World Cup 2019
3. TOP6 in energy sector at Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge 2019
4. TOP9 in Hydrogen at New Energy Challengers
5. Winner of "Å Pitch”
6. New Promising Innovation 2017 and 2018
7. Finalist at Tech Plan Demo Day in Silicon Valley
8. One of the winners of "I am a UC Entrepreneur" contest
9. TOP30 team in Ajujaht contest
10. Runner-up at PowerUp! by InnoEnergy country finals
11. Special award from Tartu city government at Kaleidoskoop
12. Finalist in the Silicon Vikings Startup World Cup Baltic Regional Competition

Invention/Patent

WO2018098357A1 USA
FTO has been performed and we are preparing to file 1-2 more patents

Photos

Photo 1 - Next-generation hydrogen fuel cell generators
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Idea
Current Status
Market
Problem or Opportunity
Solution (product or service)
Competitors
Advantages or differentiators
Finance
Invested in previous rounds, $
Business model
Money will be spent on
Offer for investor
Team or Management
Mentors & Advisors
Lead investor
Risks
Incubation/Acceleration programs accomplishment
Won the competition and other awards
Invention/Patent
Photos
Product Video