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New changes in air compressor market

May 31,2023

The fuel cell air compressor market is undergoing new changes! On the one hand, with the increasing number of enterprises in the field of air compressors, the market concentration began to decline; On the other hand, on the technical level, affected by the diversification of fuel cells, air compressor enterprises are also expanding product application scenarios to find incremental markets, especially for high power, which almost flock to expanders collectively. Some people call 2023 the first year of expanders.

What new forces have emerged in the air compressor market? How has this changed the original market structure? Why is the expander so popular? What stage is the application of this new technology in China at present and when is it expected to be applied on a large scale? This paper will answer these questions one by one: the new changes in the air compressor market The air compressor is the "lung" of the fuel cell system, and its importance is self-evident. For several years in a row, under the general environment of promoting the development of fuel cells in China, the domestic air compressor shipments have increased rapidly as a whole, but since last year, this market state has begun to change.

According to the survey data of GGII, in 2022, the domestic shipments of hydrogen fuel cell air compressors exceeded 10,000 units, which was not a big increase compared with 2021. The specific reason is mainly due to the epidemic situation. At the end of the previous year, most enterprises hoarded a lot of goods to prepare for mass installation in 2022. However, due to the slow landing of the epidemic situation and policies in 2022, the goods were not digested in time, which in turn affected the annual shipments.

Although the cake in the air compressor market has not increased, the number of enterprises stationed in this field is still increasing. According to the data, new forces such as Jin Lingtong, Xiling Power and Central Plains Internal Distribution are accelerating the layout of the domestic air compressor market. Weichai Power and Swiss Feisu Group are promoting the design of domestic air compressors. Foreign brands are also seizing the domestic market share. Spinders has entered the domestic market, and the air compressor products cover the input power of 2kW~30kW, which can match the system of 10kW~180kW.

The superposition of multiple factors makes the domestic air compressor market have two remarkable characteristics:

First, the market competition is more intense, and enterprises are caught in a serious involution. It is reported that many manufacturers have played the cards of upside-down product prices in order to grab orders.

"Selling at the price of materials makes the cost upside down by 50%, which is becoming a normal state in the air compressor industry." Even so, it is not easy for air compressor enterprises to get orders, because it is more and more difficult for air compressor enterprises to get customer recognition, and the increase of air compressor enterprises has made the system manufacturers have more choices. The phenomenon of industry involution has emerged.

Second, the original situation of highly concentrated market began to loosen. For a long time, Kingston and Shijiatoubo are the main suppliers of fuel cell air compressors in China, and their market share is as high as over 90%. The latest market research shows that the market share of the two major enterprises still accounts for the main share, but with more enterprises grabbing market share, the original highly concentrated market structure has begun to change.

"The industry is still in the early stage of industrialization, and the market is still relatively receptive to new participants. The competitive pattern will inevitably cycle in the process of' concentration-dispersion-re-concentration'. The new enterprises that have flooded into the air compressor track have accelerated this cycle and are gradually moving the market from the original' concentration' to the temporary' dispersion'." Another person in charge of the air compressor enterprise observed that.

Will the market increase by 1.5 times in 2023?

Although there was no obvious increase in the air compressor market last year, and the competition among enterprises became more and more fierce, they were generally optimistic about the air compressor market in 2023, and agreed that the market shipments would increase to some extent, and some even predicted that the growth rate would be 1.5-2 times on the basis of 2022.

The main reasons are as follows: First, the application scenarios of fuel cells are widening, and enterprises focus on the layout of fixed power generation, logistics vehicles, public transport vehicles, off-road vehicles, heavy trucks and other scenarios, which will bring new opportunities for air compressor products; Secondly, major automakers have successively launched hydrogen passenger cars, and demonstrated and promoted them through online car platform or cooperation with local governments, which is a new market for air compressors.

Judging from the current situation, many enterprises have launched in-depth layout in the new incremental market. For example, Huajian New Energy, the company's product application scenarios have included fixed power stations, logistics vehicles, public transport vehicles, off-road vehicles, heavy trucks, etc., and have been actually applied in different fields.

Others, including Yihejie, Hedwell, East German Industry and the aforementioned Spinders, are also developing products suitable for various scenarios.

"The diversified exploration of this kind of air compressor is not technically difficult, because the boundary conditions are different, so it is difficult and easy, and it is necessary to do a development work, but this is not a leap-forward difference, but it can spread the research and development costs equally, thus helping customers reduce costs." The relevant person in charge of Hedwell told Gaogong Hydrogen Power.

Crowds flock to the back of expander application

As we all know, at present, fuel cells continue to move towards high power, and one of the constraints of development is the matching of BOP. In the aspect of air compressor, in order to meet the demand of increasing system power and lower parasitic power consumption, air compressor enterprises have set their eyes on the expander (air compressor with energy recovery), and in practice, it has changed from "talking" and "watching" to "doing" in practice.

The expander air compressor uses the principle of turbine expansion to do work, recycling part of the energy in the exhaust of the stack, thus reducing the demand for power supply of the air compressor. The expander route has obvious economy for the system and the whole vehicle. The calculation shows that if the actual stack is 180kW in a 150kW system, because of parasitic power consumption, the air compressor accounts for 80% of the energy consumption, which is about 24kW (two-stage compression). If the expander product is used for energy recovery, the power consumption of the air compressor itself will be reduced by 8kW to 16kW, and the efficiency will be improved by 33%. In a 150kW system, dozens of stacks can be added less, according to 4,000 yuan.

Among the domestic air compressor enterprises, Kingston, Shijiatoubo, Hedwell, Huajian Energy, Yihejie, East Germany Industry and Honeycomb C-TREK have all launched expander air compressors. Including Spenders, are also developing and verifying the expander air compressor.

Among them, Heidwell's expander began to send samples to different customers in July last year, and dozens of prototypes have been provided. The highest efficiency of the product tested on the customer's system reached 108%, which exceeded the customer's expectation, and it has been tested on the customer's system for more than 8 months. Huajian Energy's air compressors with variable cross-section and energy recovery include WIFCC16EXP for 80kW-160kW system and IFCC24EXP for 160kW-240kW system.

Yi Hejie has developed air compressor products with expanders, namely FCTC20 for 110kW-130kW system, FCTC30 for 130kW -180kW system and FCTC55 for 300kW reactor, which are all being tested and loaded. The air compressor with energy recovery function of East Germany Industrial Co., Ltd. has been tested in the head enterprise. The product adopts the technical scheme of single-stage compression and single-stage expansion, and the expansion end is made of titanium alloy, which improves the water erosion resistance. Compared with the traditional two-stage centrifugal compressor, the volume decreases by 10% and the weight decreases by 13%, and the power consumption of the air compressor can be saved by 20%-30% year-on-year, effectively reducing the hydrogen consumption of the fuel cell system.

Although air compressor enterprises have made efforts on the expander and generally reached the stage of customer testing, it is worth noting that this kind of products have not been promoted on a large scale in the market at present.

The main reason is that the enthusiasm of system manufacturers to adopt expander is not high:

On the one hand, the greater the system power of the fuel cell, the more obvious the energy-saving effect of the expander. Most systems below 120kW use two-stage compression air compressors. In order to reduce the power consumption of several kilowatts, it is necessary to redesign the system and verify it, which makes the system manufacturers less enthusiastic.

On the other hand, system manufacturers still have some concerns about the reliability and service life of the expander, and they usually dare not try it easily without adequate testing and verification, including whether the separation efficiency of liquid water in the oxygen air circuit can reach 100%.

In addition, at the application level, because the maximum subsidized power limit of the system is 110 kW, most enterprises use this line to push products, so that users can minimize the purchase cost. If it is a 150kW product, the extra 40kW is not subsidized, which means that the cost is 160,000 yuan more (calculated according to 4,000 yuan /kW), and the user's economic account is not enough.

But the demand determines the route and the scene defines the product. With the increasing demand for high-power demonstration applications, the economic advantages of expander are further highlighted, and it is expected to become the darling of the market in the near future. At that time, in the new technical battlefield, the pattern of air compressor market may be rewritten.

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