Geel-based Belgian company Borit is banking strongly on the fuel which it believes will be powering the car of the future: hydrogen. It is already showing major sales growth as a result. “This promises to be a billion-euro business.”
Borit CEO Luc Wanten and his R&D and production team manufacture hydroformed thin metal plates used in fuel cells. These cells are crucial to a hydrogen-powered car.
The so-called flow plates are a critical component to generate energy in vehicles powered by hydrogen for instance. “Our big production specialty consists in welding together two ultra-thin plates with a thickness of 100 microns, which is one-tenth of a millimetre,” Luc Wanten tells BeAutomotive. “The work is extremely precise and involves a lot of welds because the flow plates must be gas-tight. But we do it well.”
50% of sales from automotive
More and more car manufacturers are turning to hydrogen and Borit.
“We’ve experienced huge growth in our automotive sales as more and more OEMs focus on hydrogen,” says Luc Wanten. “For instance, three German makes are doing just that. Out of our total sales of over 5 million euro, more than half are now generated in automotive. You may say that it is now a niche market, yet it will certainly grow into a billion-euro market once it comes to full maturity.”
At the moment, 95% of Borit’s turnover comes from exporting its products, with half of those sales realised in North America.
“We manage to win and keep great customers. We are expecting the first hydrogen-powered cars to be launched on the European market in 2018-2019.”
Belgian R&D all the way to Japan
With a workforce of about 35 people in R&D and production, Borit is currently based in Geel. It was founded in 2010 as a promising spin-off of OnderzoeksCentrum voor de Aanwending van Staal OCAS and Borit Leichtbau-Technik. For a while, production was based on the Open Manufacturing Campus (OMC) in Turnhout, where Philips is developing the most productive square kilometre in Belgium.
The partnership with Philips and OCAS provided expertise and orders from all over the world.
In Japan especially, there is growing interest in hydrogen. In the country which has still not recovered from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Toyota is planning to sell 20,000 hydrogen-powered cars by 2020.
Borit ranked among top 10 Flanders Cleantech companies
In the spring of 2014, Borit was selected out of 130 Flemish Cleantech Companies to be included in the “Flanders Cleantech 10” report. The degree of innovation or technology offered by the company in terms of disruptiveness, and the degree in which the products and services offered find their way into the market successfully were among the key criteria for the selection.
“At Borit we are constantly developing new applications for our unique continuous hydroforming system,” says CEO Luc Wanten. “This Hydrogate propriety process can add value and reduce costs to the supply chain. In tandem with our in-house laser cutting and welding capabilities, we truly offer a professional production and service with high technology and broad engineering expertise.”