CAPE TOWN, South Africa’s efforts to develop a viable fuel cell manufacturing industry, which will help stimulate economic growth, create jobs, generate export revenue, and produce cleaner energy are gaining traction, says Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

In a statement issued in conjunction with a two-day fuel cell bus workshop hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry, in partnership with the German government, which began here Monday, he said the purpose of the workshop was to provide a platform where South Africa could learn from the Germans who had successfully rolled out fuel cell buses in various cities.

He added that the main focus of South Africa’s fuel cell strategy was to develop a globally competitive fuel cell manufacturing industry which would add value to South Africa’s platinum resources and which would drive market growth and ensure long-term sustainability of the country’s platinum mining industry.

“The beneficiation of platinum group metals (PGMs) is a key objective of South Africa’s beneficiation strategy. The DTI has prioritised fuel cells for pro-active development based on the impact to the country’s economic growth,” said Davies.

“One of the interventions identified in the industrial policy action plan (IPAP) is developing and growing PGMs beneficiation and demand for platinum in SA beyond the current levels through the development of a fuel cell industry.”

The overall goal is to create a sustainable local manufacturing sector for platinum-based fuel cells and its sub-components by processing PGM minerals through appropriate mechanisms which support a local and global market.

“This will result in job creation, attracting new investments; generation of export revenue through manufacture and export of value-added platinum based fuel cells, components, and technologies; skills development; diversification of the current energy mix through production of cleaner energy; and socio-economic upliftment of our people,” said Davies.

Various interventions were being put in place to stimulate demand for platinum and to gear up fuel cells as a large scale demand driver. South Africa’s focus was on applications in the country and sub-Saharan Africa in stationary, mobile, materials handling, mining equipment, and distributed generation.

“Last year a steering committee comprising of government, mining houses, local engineering and manufacturing companies, as well as technology providers was established to jointly craft and implement a fuel cell road map for industrialisation in South Africa, as well as to identify market opportunities and technologies for prioritization,” said Davies.

“The importance of collaboration between all spheres of government and industry to create and adopt new markets and technologies for PGMs can never be overemphasised. A number of key projects aligned to the road map are being pursued by the mining companies, technology developers, and government.”

He was hopeful that the workshop would lead to the introduction of fuel cell buses in major South African cities after learning from the German experience. Germany is one of the leading countries globally in the roll-out of fuel cell buses.