Loop Energy: Believing in a dream pays off for Chilliwack investors

This is part 3 of a 3-part series on the rise of Loop Energy, now being traded publicly on the TSX

A Peterbilt/Meritor Class 8 truck with a 100kW Loop fuel cell, operating at the Port of Los Angeles. (Loop Energy photo)

A Peterbilt/Meritor Class 8 truck with a 100kW Loop fuel cell, operating at the Port of Los Angeles. (Loop Energy photo)

A company that had humble beginnings in Chilliwack more than 20 years ago hit the big time last week when it went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Loop Energy, a pioneer in the world of hydrogen fuel cells, may one day soon be a billion dollar company.

Here’s part three in a three-part series, detailing the long journey from there to here.

You can read part one here and part two here.

———————————————-

David Leger likes to say he never ran into a reason to stop what he was doing with Loop Energy, but for four years in the late 2000s the company had to turn the lights off.

With the fuel cell industry struggling badly in 2006 and money running low, Loop Energy went into hibernation.

For the next four years, Leger monitored the scene, watching for signs of a bounce back. By 2009 he was starting to see the fuel industry crawling out of the hole it had dug itself. Leger re-convened the board, got local investors to kick in more money and the chase began anew.

He re-connected with Greg Montie, Tony Edgar and the team at the National Research Council, and in 2011 Edgar uttered the two words that can either be exhilarating or terrifying.

Peer review.

In this case, it basically meant having people who know as much or more about fuel cells review all of Loop Energy’s work.

A man named Dr. Sean MacKinnon, who had worked at Ballard Power and General Motors for a combined 10 years, and was one of the NRC’s foremost fuel cell experts, did the review. By this time, the Loop Energy team believed they had solved two supposedly unsolvable problems. They had achieved uniform current distribution and nearly eliminated mass transport losses.

RELATED: Loop Energy: How a humble Chilliwack startup became a multi-million dollar fuel cell pioneer

RELATED: Loop Energy: Chilliwack fuel-cell startup hits bumps on road to success

It would take too long to explain those two concepts, but suffice to say MacKinnon was skeptical.

A PhD polymer chemist with 36 patents in his name, he knew fuel cells better than most and said, ‘No, no way you have that.’

But when he sat down with Loop Energy’s design and the engineering behind it, he thought they might actually have it. Nine months later, after completing a project assigned to them by MacKinnon, Loop Energy sent him more data. As he looked at the numbers on his monitor, he sat in a fog. Go to the best fuel cell engineers in the world and ask them to pick two attributes of a fuel cell that, if fixed, would have the biggest impact. Leger bets they would pick eliminating mass transport losses and achieving uniform current distribution, and MacKinnon was suddenly looking at one design that could fix both.

And it was just geometry.

Four months later, MacKinnon sold his house in Montreal and moved to B.C. to become Loop Energy’s chief scientist, a position he holds to this day.

It’s been slow and steady progression since then, getting to the point where the company is now ready to offer shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

Through all of it, Leger said there were times he wanted to walk away, times when he says he “broke.”

When he had payroll to meet on Thursday and he was $10,000 short on Tuesday, he thought, “Why am I doing this? Why am I torturing myself and my family like this?”

When he’s at a get-together and someone is talking about their big thing they’re going to do, and how they’re going to take over the world, he believes that is possible, however when they mention how easy it’s going to be to do it, Leger just keeps his mouth shut.

He had those thoughts when he was 28. He’s 50 now, and he knows better.

But all the headaches and heartache and sleepless nights have been leading to this moment.

Loop Energy opened with a $100-million IPO on the TSX, and Leger unabashedly predicts Loop Energy will be valued at more than $1-billion in the not-too-distant future. The people who believed in Leger’s vision 20 years ago, most of them from Chilliwack and the eastern Fraser Valley, will now be rewarded for their faith.

A lot of money is about to roll into the community Leger grew up in, most of it in the hands of people he describes as good caring people. He calls them givers who are going to give back, and now they’ll have millions more dollars to do it with.

As for what started it all, that mountain on the Chilliwack skyline that Leger couldn’t see in 1998?

He feels good about that too.

“Do you have a technology that’s just cool, or do you have something that can slide in against the incumbent, compete with it and take it out at its knees,” he often thought. “The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones and fossil fuel use is not going to end because we ran out of fossil fuels.

“It’s going to end because there’s a better way to do it.”

Fuel cells may be that future. Loop Energy may be that future.

chilliwacktech industry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including South Surrey’s Pacific Highway should ‘not be left behind’

Cannabis plants visible under bright lights inside a large facility at Shxwha:y Village on July 6, 2018. The reserve was home to the licensed producer for Indigenous Bloom, which opened up a dispensary on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt reserve. On April 12, 2021, Shxwha:y announced Health Canada approval for a licensed production facility at the village. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack’s Shxwha:y First Nation approved for cannabis cultivation and processing facility

It will be the first majority-owned Indigenous on-reserve licensed facility in Western Canada

The Fraser Valley Bandits chose Brandon University’s Anthony Tsegakele in the first round of the 2021 CEBL Draft. (Submitted)
Fraser Valley Bandits reveal 2021 CEBL Draft choices

Abbotsford-based club selects Quebec’s Anthony Tsegakele in first round

Bat Packs are the newest addition to the FVRL Playground, and have everything you need to learn more about bats, and track them in your neighbourhood. (FVRL image)
Bat Packs at Fraser Valley libraries come with echometer to track bats

Packs are the newest part of the FVRL Playground inventory

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among the encouraged ventilation measures

(Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

MP Todd Doherty took to Facebook after his family recently received threats. (Todd Doherty, MP Facebook photo)
‘I don’t run and I don’t hide’: Cariboo MP says RCMP probing threats made against family

Todd Doherty has also notified House of Commons Protective Services

Two men walk past a sign on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calls for government transparency in COVID data continue as B.C.’s 3rd wave wears on

Social media, where both information and misinformation can spread like wildfire, has not helped

An unidentified B.C. man said, in a human rights complaint, that he was refused a contract job after refusing to wear a mask when asked to by an on-site manager. (Unsplash)
Religious B.C. man lodges human rights complaint after fired for refusing to wear a mask

Worker’s claim that ‘to cover up our face infringes on our God-given ability to breathe’ dismissed by B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read