Success Stories

Terella Energy Systems - Mission, BC

John Kenna first met with Community Futures North Fraser in 2013 when he was looking for early stage financing for a new technology business he started in Mission. In 2013 the company, Terrella Energy, had demonstrated the viability of their technology and had just received their first purchase order. The loan, which closed in 2014, was to buy new equipment needed to complete that first sale. 

The company manufactures graphite plates primarily for use in hydrogen fuel cells and most Terrella customers are in the automotive or transport sector. The move to alternate fuels for cars, buses and trucks has been a slow and evolving process, and while Terrella has continued to land new POs they have all been small orders for research and pilot projects.  

These POs kept the ‘doors open’ and helped Terrella establish an impressive list of clients, but it took until 2017 for the first larger breakthrough. And for the company to need another round of funding. 

Fuel cells have always used graphite or metal plates, and in small volume the cost of these plates has not been a critical issue. The value of the Terrella technology is in how the fuel cell plates are manufactured, and the potential for high volume production at a very low price. Terrella’s technology is the forming of graphite using roller embossing. Instead of stamping or engraving single units at a time the roller embossed production line provides high volume continuous output, and as John notes “Nobody has a process that can match this level of production at the cost of Terrella.” 

Terrella is now starting to get their first volume orders and the change according to John is because “The fuel cell industry is finally looking at technologies that are scalable and cost effective.” In China fuel cell busses are in regular commercial use and in California, and number of other places around the world, you can buy a fuel cell car from a dealer’s lot. While the market has a long way to go, manufactures are no longer working to prove the technology, now they are working to make fuel cell vehicles that are competitively priced 

The Community Futures loan in 2017 helped Terrella finally get to larger contracts. “The second loan is how I was able to get the large contract for the bus plates. With Community Futures it’s more personal, you got me through a few months when I was unable to make payments, I’ve used your boardroom and you helped me with contacts in the local business community, and now I finally feel like I’ve ‘crossed the chasm’.” said John. To fill the increasing demand for fuel call plates Terrella is hiring additional staff and the improved cash flow at Terrella has allowed the company to pay out the most recent Community Futures Loan within a year.  

Contact

Community Futures British Columbia
C230-7871 Stave Lake Street
Mission, BC  V2V 0C5
  1-604-289-4222
 

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