An Interview with Dr. Faiz Nahab, CEO of Proton Motor

Dr. Faiz Nahab tells us about Proton Motor expertise, its future aspirations and how he sees it evolve in the current energy transition.

1. How do you rate the current state of the energy transition?

The energy turnaround is central to a secure, environmentally compatible and economically
successful future. To this end, Germany’s energy supply is being fundamentally converted: away from nuclear and fossil fuels, towards renewable energies and more energy efficiency. Now almost 43% of electricity comes from wind, sun, water or biomass. We see our corporate strategy in the development and production of fuel cells. The technology, based
on the key energy source hydrogen, helps us on our way to practical climate protection and as an instrument to achieve international climate goals.

2. If you as the Minister of Energy were politically responsible for the energy turnaround, which levers would you turn?

There are clear goals for all areas of the energy transition – electricity, heating and transport. Energy supply is to be increasingly converted to renewable energies but energy should be used more efficiently. The electricity market has already been made fit for renewable energies but reforms made by electricity providers to consumers would be welcome. Measures that benefit the building industry in the context of alternative electricity
generation or support energy self-sufficiency would be welcome too. Last but not least, as a German- English brand, post-Brexit we would of course also benefit from even stronger integration into the European internal market and from tenders from EU funding programs after the “Green Deal” of July8, 2020.

3. How do you expect the pandemic to effect the energy industry in particular and on the economy and society in general?

After June 3, 2020, the German government passed the economic stimulus package “Fighting Corona consequences, securing prosperity, strengthening future viability” that contains key points for the development of a hydrogen economy in Germany. Meanwhile, the “National Hydrogen Strategy“ was officially adopted on June 10, 2020, planning for Germany to play a pioneering role in hydrogen globally. The program for the development of hydrogen production plants has also been outlined, with large plants with a total output of 5GW funded until 2030 and beyond.

The regulatory basis for setting up a hydrogen infrastructure is being implemented quickly. The hydrogen filling station network for heavy trucks is to be expanded and a European hydrogen company to be examined. Finally, the purchase or scrapping premium for electric cars, alongside Germany’s VAT reduction, has increased the attractiveness of emission-free driving.

4. What are the most important showcase projects with which you (want to) inspire and convince your customers?

As a Bavarian hydrogen fuel cell manufacturer with over twenty years of development experience, we are very proud to be a partner for the current implementation of the first European grid connected hydrogen power plant, which is scheduled to start operating in summer 2020. The stationary fuel cell system we are contributing is one of our exceptional large-scale projects.

In the mobility sector, we are integrated as a member of a number of consortia that specialize in ordering logistics and municipal vehicles. These include e-city buses and e-waste collection vehicles. The latter are to be used as prototypes in several major cities and we see a strongly growing demand for these in the coming years. Proton Motor is active in almost all mobility sectors. In addition to rail applications, we are increasingly
receiving requests from the maritime sector – but they are still confidential!

5. What is the basis of your company`s unique selling proposition on the market? How do you want to preserve or expand this?

We position ourselves as a developer and manufacturer of fuel cell stacks and complete
systems. Worldwide, we offer the most powerful hydrogen fuel cell made of graphite bipolar
plates – as the heart of the stacks – for up to 73 kW. Our models also have a feature that is unique internationally – that they can be installed in two ways, horizontally and vertically. Some of the components and solutions are designed alongside suppliers, with software programming and control being carried out by us. There is a clearly defined development roadmap for the 2020s, which also specifies the transition from the production of medium quantities to series production. This step is to be implemented in cooperation with licensees
and through joint ventures.

6. What specific market changes are you currently preparing for?

The steadily increasing number of inquiries reflects the broad market environment for our hydrogen fuel cell solutions “Made in Germany”, which is generated from the areas of stationary, automotive, rail and maritime. There’s also a trend towards customer-specific solutions – and our USP is not off-the-shelf hydrogen fuel cells, but tailor-made solutions delivered in a highly flexible, individual and dynamic manner.

7. Which key figures / orientation values are the best indicators of market changes? How is your business model changing?

Market mechanisms depend on a large number of parameters. The hydrogen issue becomes socially acceptable through political committees, even though Germany has catching up to do compared to other (e.g. Scandinavian) countries. Industrial or lobby networks or associations prepare decarbonisation for the public while media launches ensure that information and dissemination opportunities are still very important, so that
“hydrogen as the answer to the future” is established in people’s minds.

Specifically, our business development can be seen in our continuously increasing number of inquiries and the resulting contracts. In fact, the market value of the “Proton Power Systems” share, which is published by the English parent company “Proton Motor Power Systems plc”, acts as a barometer of all fuel cell projects of the operative company
subsidiary in Bavaria.

The continuing focus on our core competence – i.e. on fuel cells and hybrid systems – is a priority. Joint ventures, cooperations and partnerships are to be concluded for complete solutions. The decision in favour of the stronger automation of manufacturing and assembly processes is on the Proton Motor agenda as well as being a factor of value creation

8. What specific topics and technology developments are you currently dealing with?

From a political perspective, we need to move more levers to benefit from substantial support for renewable energies at the federal and EU levels. The general increase in performance densities within the product portfolio is a matter of course. Similarly, successful quality management and cost reduction are tracked, while we are working to extend service life and the usability of our engine fuel cells.

9. What are the principles according to which you run your company / division? How do you
encourage your employees?

Our employees are highly motivated to help shape a future worth living in for their children and grandchildren. Our working atmosphere and the respectful interaction with each other invite our staff to actively contribute with creative ideas. The joy of high-tech development paired with a friendly understanding of the team are in the truest sense of the word “motor” for the best possible motivation. We also want to implement a company participation model in the future through employee shares.

10. What was your most important career step and why?

After finishing Ph.D. at university, I continued to work employment for three more years, before moving on to start my own company. Since then I have developed four successful companies.

11. When you look back, which professional decisions are you particularly proud of?

I am proud of all my professional decisions and successes. Proton Motor gives me more incentive as it serves the world as well as being a business venture.

Thank you Dr. Naiz Nahab for talking to The Hydrogen Standard.

Key Features:
Company: Proton Motor
Focus: Integration-Ready Fuel Cell Systems
Dr. Faiz Nahab: CEO
Twitter: @ProtonMotor
LinkedIn: Proton Motor Fuel Cell GmbH