The European Investment Bank (EIB) has granted the Belgian Punch Group a €40 million finance contract for further developing hydrogen propulsion systems, like fuel cells and the H2 burning engine, as an environmentally friendly successor for the diesel engine.
The investments will be made mainly at the company’s headquarters in Turin (Italy), Punch Group says, and, to a lesser extent, in Strasbourg (France). The research and development center in Turin was, until 2020, the General Motors (GM) propulsion research center, which specialized in diesel engines, electronic control systems, fuel cells, and artificial intelligence.
Second factory from GM
After taking over the gearbox factory in Strasbourg, this was the second company the Belgian entrepreneur Guido Dumarey acquired from GM. The U.S. carmaker was leaving the plant because it had withdrawn mainly from Europe following the restructuring and sale of Opel.
The research center in Turin focused under GM very much on diesel development, a fuel that has been under fire in Europe for a long time. GM saw Turin as its trump card for a revival of diesel but decided to get rid of the center of expertise by selling it to the current owner and CEO of Punch Group, Guido Dumarey.
Meanwhile, General Motors has confirmed its return to Europe with electric cars. This can be deduced from the announcement that Jaclyn McQuaid has been appointed President and CEO of GM Europe.
For Dumarey, the transition from diesel to electric and hydrogen is an obvious choice. “The EIB’s support will be key in implementing our vision of sustainable mobility for all. We wish to expand our technological expertise in the field of electric and hydrogen propulsion, and we believe in the huge potential of hydrogen engines, especially for heavier or commercial vehicles, off-road vehicles, and the marine sector,” he says.
The EIB, seeing itself as the EU climate bank, plays a vital role in transforming mobility and moving it toward a low-carbon future, its vice-president Gelsomina Vigliotti stated. “Operations like this one with the Punch Group are key to promoting the decarbonization of the automotive, industrial and commercial vehicle sectors through the development of innovative solutions such as hydrogen, fuel-cell, and electric engines.”
Seven locations worldwide
The Punch Group has 1 750 employees today in seven locations in Europe and Asia and has an annual turnover of over €600 million. Punch Torino is the company’s main facility for developing innovative propulsion systems and control solutions, with 700 people from 12 different nationalities working there.
Punch’s other activities include transmissions (Punch Powerglide) in France and kinetic energy recovery and storage systems in the UK (Punch Flybrid).
Punch Powertrain in Sint Truiden (Belgium), the former DAF factory making the famous Variomatic transmissions in the early seventies and specializing in e-drives next to hybrid and classic transmissions today, was sold by Dumarey in 2006 to the Chinese Yinyi Group.