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Market News

 February 07, 2012
All SMILEs as Intelligent Energy and Suzuki form new fuel cell venture

 UK fuel cell developer Intelligent Energy has created a new joint venture with auto giant Suzuki to accelerate the deployment of the hydrogen-fuelled technology in new low-carbon transport and combined heat and power systems.

Both companies have invested an undisclosed amount and will hold a 50 per cent stake in SMILE FC System Corporation, which will be headquartered in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka, although operations will initially be based in Yokohama.

The deal also includes a non-exclusive license agreement that gives the Japanese automaker access to IE's hydrogen technology for a new generation of fuel cell powered vehicles.

The companies hope the agreement will cut the estimated €1-2bn it takes to carry out a new engine development programme, as well as the length of time to market.

"Combining Intelligent Energy's market-leading fuel cell system technology with Suzuki's mass-production capabilities and supply chain excellence will accelerate the deployment, long-term scalability and applicability of fuel cells for the next generation of eco cars and other market segments," said Intelligent Energy chief executive Dr Henri Winand.

He added that the Suzuki deal fitted in with the company's strategy of leasing its technology, which has also seen it form a separate joint venture with SSE to develop fuel cell combined heat and power systems.

The deal builds on a strong existing partnership between Intelligent and Suzuki, which has already seen the companies co-operate on the development of the Burgman fuel cell scooter, pencilled in for commercial release in 2015, and the hydrogen-powered Crosscage motorcycle.

"This joint venture is the latest exciting development in the successful relationship between Intelligent Energy and Suzuki," said Phil Caldwell, business development director at Intelligent Energy, who will sit on the SMILE board.

"It is a big step towards the mass production of automotive fuel cell systems."

As well as motorcycles, Intelligent Energy technology has been used to power a London taxi and the world's first manned fuel cell aircraft.

Last year, it secured £7m from investors, underlining the firm's position as one of the world's leading fuel cell technology developers and taking the company's fundraising to approximately £100m.

Using hydrogen fuel cells to power low-carbon vehicles is not a new idea, but despite addressing the 'range anxiety' suffered by all electric cars, the expense of fuel cell vehicles has made the technology difficult to commercialise.

Last month, the government launched a new programme dubbed UKH2Mobility designed to support the accelerated rollout of hydrogen-powered vehicles from 2014.