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Gary Ong, founder of Celadyne Technologies on pioneering durable, eco-friendly Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Heavy-Duty Trucking

Automotive Industries interview with Gary Ong, Founder and CEO of Celadyne Technologies

In an enlightening interview with Automotive Industries, Gary Ong, the Founder and CEO of Celadyne Technologies, elaborates on how his company is leveraging advanced materials technology to revolutionize the heavy-duty trucking and industrial sectors. Celadyne Technologies is at the forefront of creating more durable, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional diesel engines, specifically through their innovative fuel cells and electrolyzers. This interview delves into the company’s strategies, technological advancements, and the broader implications for sustainability and industry decarbonization.

 

Gary Ong begins by highlighting Celadyne’s breakthrough in extending the lifespan of fuel cells, making them a viable competitor to diesel engines in heavy-duty applications. By replacing the conventional proton exchange membrane in fuel cells with their advanced materials, Celadyne has quintupled their durability, significantly lowering lifetime costs and enhancing performance. This innovation is pivotal as it enables fuel cells to serve as a more sustainable option compared to diesel engines, reducing environmental impact while maintaining cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

 

One of the standout advantages of Celadyne’s technology is its contribution to the recyclability and sustainability of fuel cells. Ong points out that fuel cells, unlike batteries, are highly recyclable. At the end of their life, the active components can be recovered efficiently, making fuel cells not only a long-lasting solution but also an environmentally responsible one. This aspect is crucial for industries that are increasingly focused on sustainability and waste reduction.

 

Celadyne’s approach to making hydrogen affordable and indispensable is another key focus of the interview. Ong acknowledges the global fuel issue and the automotive industry’s need for viable alternative fuels. Hydrogen, being the most abundant element, holds immense potential. However, its widespread adoption has been hindered by cost and accessibility issues. Celadyne addresses these challenges by enhancing fuel cell durability and efficiency while developing technology to produce low-cost green hydrogen. This dual approach not only makes hydrogen a feasible alternative but also positions it as a critical component for the future of clean energy in sectors like trucking, shipping, and industrial applications.

 

The Automotive Industries interview with Gary, also sheds light on Celadyne’s significant milestones and strategic partnerships that are accelerating industrial decarbonization. Since its inception in 2019, Celadyne has secured substantial funding from prominent investors and support from governmental bodies like the US Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. These partnerships, along with collaborations with automotive giants such as Shell and Toyota, are instrumental in advancing Celadyne’s mission

 

Celadyne aims to create a virtuous cycle that propels hydrogen towards mass market adoption. By improving the efficiency and durability of both fuel cells and electrolyzers, Celadyne is making hydrogen production more economical and scalable. This strategy is expected to boost demand for hydrogen, particularly in heavy-duty trucking, where the need for long-lasting, efficient fuel solutions is paramount.

 

Celadyne’s technology stands out due to its unique combination of advanced materials that enhance the durability of fuel cells without compromising efficiency. This capability is crucial for heavy-duty applications where both capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operational expenditure (OPEX) are significant concerns. The ability to operate at higher temperatures also reduces the need for extensive thermal management systems, further simplifying integration into existing truck designs.

 

Ong’s team at Celadyne comprises experts in fuel cells, electrochemistry, and materials science, driving innovation and maintaining the company’s competitive edge. The team’s extensive knowledge and experience are evident in the groundbreaking advancements they have achieved in fuel cell and electrolyzer technologies.

 

Celadyne Technologies is poised to make a substantial impact on reducing carbon emissions across various sectors, particularly in heavy-duty trucking. By addressing both the economic and environmental challenges associated with hydrogen fuel cells, Celadyne is not only transforming the automotive industry but also paving the way for a sustainable, decarbonized future. This interview with Gary Ong encapsulates the transformative potential of Celadyne’s innovations and their commitment to driving the global shift towards clean energy.

 

 

Automotive Industries interview with Gary Ong, Founder and CEO of Celadyne Technologies

 

Automotive Industries: Hi Gary, how is Celadyne Technologies leveraging its advanced materials technology to compete with traditional diesel engines in heavy-duty trucking and industrial applications?

 

Ong: Celadyne is using its advanced materials technology to quintuple the lifetime of fuel cells to compete with the traditional ownership structure of diesel engines used in heavy-duty trucking or diesel generators used in other industrial applications.

 

Specifically, our advanced technologies effectively convert hydrogen to usable energy through compact, easy-to-use fuel cells that seamlessly integrate. Our materials and technologies replace the proton exchange membrane at the heart of the devices to create more durable fuel cells, and electrolyzers that are more compact and efficient. This newfound durability allows fuel cells to be utilized as an environmentally-friendlier alternative to diesel engines. At the same time, Celadyne’s technology also makes electrolyzers that produce low-cost green hydrogen as fuel. We collaborate with fuel cell and utility firms directly to offer efficient hydrogen solutions to heavy-duty industries such as energy, manufacturing, and transportation.

 

Automotive Industries: What are the specific advantages of Celadyne’s approach compared to traditional diesel engines in terms of cost-effectiveness, durability, and sustainability?

 

Ong: With heavy duty or Class-8 trucking, the total weight of the cargo and truck matters more than people realize. This is especially the case with the transportation of industrial goods like cement, concrete, steel, cars, etc. Celadyne-enabled fuel cells are 500% more durable than average, increasing replacement cycles to over 10 years, substantially reducing lifetime costs, and making them competitive with diesel engines while maintaining all other performance characteristics. This means that these automotive vehicles can hit all of their current goals for decarbonization and markers while being more cost effective and energy efficient in the long run.

 

Furthermore, fuel cells are more recyclable than batteries, making them both a longer-lasting and sustainable choice. At the end of life, we can remove the active “membrane electrode assembly” component where the precious metals are, and recover over 90 % of it. There are also a smaller number of dopant elements in the system compared to a battery, thus making recovery easier. Trucking and transportation companies that take on Celadyne-enabled fuel cells are saving money and time while reducing waste.

 

Automotive Industries: Could you elaborate on Celadyne’s strategy to make hydrogen not only affordable but also indispensable in sectors like trucking, shipping, and industrial applications?

 

Ong: Anyone can see that the world has an undeniable fuel issue, which means that fuel-based industries like the automotive one have an even bigger issue. Recent years have been dedicated to finding alternative or environmentally friendly fuel options, as seen with the rising popularity of things like electric vehicles and solar power. However, the one nut that everyone wants to crack is hydrogen. Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element in the universe, and by making it more cost-effective, we are opening the doors for its endless uses. Recent years have proven that the major players in these industries want clean energy – Mercedes, Daimler, Cummins, Toyota, Hyundai, Bosch (with Nikola), Kenworth, Freightliner, Honda, BMW, and Volvo have all publicly announced their plans for hydrogen-powered heavy trucks to be launched commercially in this decade. The only reason they haven’t done it yet? They just don’t have access to hydrogen fuel in a way that is realistic and affordable. Celadyne is bridging this gap by helping them bring durable, long-lasting fuel cells to the frontlines that require less maintenance and replacement than traditional batteries/engines while creating technology to make hydrogen cheaper. We’re supplying top-tier automotive customers with the technology to make hydrogen trucks competitive while giving them a pathway to get the one alternative fuel that’s always been a little out of reach, until now.

 

Automotive Industries: What milestones has Celadyne achieved in its mission to accelerate industrial decarbonization with fuel cells and green hydrogen, particularly in transforming heavy-duty and industrial sectors?

 

Ong: Since starting Celadyne in 2019, we have been privileged with great success, partnerships, and investors. In February, we closed a $4.5M seed round co-led by Maniv and Dynamo Ventures, with major participation from EPS Ventures. This funding is an expansion upon capital previously raised from Shell Ventures, Sputnik ATX, the Third Derivative Accelerator, and Sandy Spring Climate Partners. We have also been publicly and financially supported through grants from the US Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, ARPA-E, and Department of Defense -AFWERX. Since 2019, we have also received valuable mentorship from automotive powerhouses Shell and Toyota through the H2Refuel program. These entities, along with our Tier 1 automotive customers, are helping us shape the future of mobility worldwide.

 

Automotive Industries: How does Celadyne plan to create a virtuous spiral upward to propel hydrogen toward mass market adoption, and what role does technology play in realizing high-value use cases for hydrogen?

 

Ong:

. Our technology has dual applications in both the fuel cell technology that converts hydrogen to energy but also in electrolyzers that convert electricity and water into hydrogen. We improve efficiency, durability, and safety for electrolyzers also by addressing hydrogen crossover. We are using this advantage to boost demand for hydrogen in heavy-duty trucking while shoring up hydrogen production with lower production costs.

 

Right now, we see options for integrating our technology into existing proton exchange membrane electrolysis projects that are coupled to renewable energy technologies to generate hydrogen, especially around logistical centers like ports where we expect a lot of hydrogen use for industrial applications. The applications for this kind of energy are endless, and once companies begin to realize the cost, material, and time savings associated with it (as companies like General Motors and Shell already have), the upward spiral will begin to drive itself. The potential for clean energy is here, industries just don’t know how to access it (or afford it). We’re making that possible, one vehicle at a time.

 

Automotive Industries: In envisioning hydrogen as the new fuel for industry, what specific advancements has Celadyne made in making fuel cells more durable and electrolyzers more efficient?

 

Ong: Celadyne’s technology focuses on making the membrane chemistry very impermeable to hydrogen: this is the root cause of failure for durability in fuel cells. But at the same time, we keep the membrane very thin so that we don’t have to take a penalty on efficiency. This combination is very important because trucking is sensitive to both long-term CAPEX and also fuel OPEX on a day-to-day basis. On top of that, these materials can also run to higher temperatures closer to the boiling point of water. This lets us reduce the size of the radiator and thermal management system to make integration into trucks easier.

 

Automotive Industries: Could you tell us more about the expertise and composition of Celadyne’s team, especially regarding materials development, catalysis research, and industry advisory?

 

Ong: Our team is composed of founders and innovators with deep technical expertise in fuel cells, electrochemistry, and materials. I have a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in Materials Science and Engineering. After completing my education, I served as a Fellow at the Chain Reactions Innovations program at Argonne National Laboratory, where Celadyne was a part of Cohort 3. Upon being founded in 2019, Celadyne was also a graduate of Sputnik ATX’ Winter 2018 EIR accelerator.

 

However, everything I’ve accomplished at Celadyne is only possible because of my team. Corey Staller, our Director of Engineering, has a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in Chemical Engineering and was formerly an engineer at Micron Technologies. He leads our incredibly skilled engineering team, most of whom possess PhDs in Chemical Engineering or similar fields, and share a passion for creating a decarbonized world.

 

Automotive Industries: What is the expected climate impact of Celadyne’s technology on reducing carbon emissions, particularly in sectors such as freight trucking, shipping, rail, agriculture, and industrial heat?

 

Ong: The transportation industry is one of the worst environmental offenders, responsible for roughly 28% of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2022. Within this, heavy and medium duty trucks contribute 28% of transportation-related global warming pollution, despite only making up about 10% of vehicles on the road. To say there’s room to improve is easy, but to actually achieve it is a whole other beast.

 

The heavy-duty vehicle sector is experiencing a rapid increase in tailpipe CO2 emissions, with trucks responsible for more than 80% of this growth since 2000. This surge in emissions underscores the urgent need to mitigate climate change and align with the Net Zero Scenario (NZE) milestones. We need to put forward efforts that focus on enhancing vehicle efficiency standards, improving logistics and operational efficiency, and transitioning to electric and hydrogen fuel-cell electric HDVs to curb emissions and meet sustainability targets.

 

As previously mentioned, Mercedes, Daimler, Cummins, Toyota, Hyundai, Bosch (with Nikola), Kenworth, Freightliner, Honda, BMW, and Volvo have all publicly announced hydrogen-powered heavy trucks to be launched commercially in this decade. However, long-term market penetration for this technology will require cost parity to traditional diesel solutions. Celadyne addresses both CAPEX and OPEX for trucking by making fuel cells last as long as diesel engines in total lifetime while reducing the cost of green hydrogen fuel. To keep up with the roll-out of green hydrogen trucking, Celadyne’s solution is also built upon an existing materials ecosystem, enabling quick scale-up and backward compatibility with existing stack architecture, thus minimizing integration costs.

 

With this two-pronged solution, Celadyne plays a pivotal role in accelerating the transition to low-emission, heavy-duty vehicles, aligning with global sustainability goals, and mitigating financial risks associated with climate change. We’re not just making automotive better, we’re making it conscious.

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