It doesn’t look like much, but this is the prototype of Loop Energy’s breakthrough fuel cell circa 2001. (Loop Energy photo)

It doesn’t look like much, but this is the prototype of Loop Energy’s breakthrough fuel cell circa 2001. (Loop Energy photo)

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

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

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


It started with a man and a mountain that he could not see.

Twenty three years ago, Chilliwack born-and-raised David Leger looked toward the place where Mt. Cheam should be, and it wasn’t there.

It was still there, of course, because mountains tend to stay where they are, but it was hidden behind a thick layer of smog.

“How can you not see a mountain that’s 10 miles across and a mile-and-a-half tall?” he thought. “Something’s wrong, right?”

Ninety nine out of 100 people would quickly move on, confident that someone else was working on the smog and the ozone layer and all that stuff. But as Leger’s entrepreneurial mind mulled it over, he saw opportunity.

He was 28 years old then, young and idealistic. But he was also smart and logical, with a knack for ‘thinking outside of the box.’

Or cube, in this case.

This is the prototype of Loop Energy’s breakthrough fuel cell circa 2001. (Loop Energy photo)

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, hydrogen fuel cells were becoming a thing. Long before Tesla brought battery-powered cars to the road, dreamers dreamed of electric vehicles powered by these fuel cells.

The problem was making them small enough and manufacturing them cheaply enough that they’d be accessible alternatives to gas and diesel powered engines.

So back to that cube.

Fuel cells being pioneered by companies like Ballard were that shape and while they were exciting, they were also un-optimized. They needed to be more efficient, more durable and cost less to compete with the internal combustion engine.

Almost all fuel cells have channels on each side of what is called a flow field plate. Many plates, often a hundred or more, are stacked in series to create a fuel cell stack. On each side of this plate is a pattern of channels, one side for flowing oxygen from the air and the other for hydrogen.

But no way to manipulate the flow inside of the fuel cell had been discovered. Every one of them had the same general design, and the same drawback. They weren’t powerful enough and struggled to maintain the power they had.

They were un-optimized.

Loop Energy had humble beginnings in Chilliwack, but the company’s 50kW fuel cell module will soon be used to power 300 municipal buses in city of Nanjing, China. (Loop Energy photo)

Leger wasn’t an engineer, but as he studied the schematics and started to understand how fuel cells worked, he had an idea.

What if?

“What if instead of making a fuel cell in a cube, we squished it down and made it wider,” he mused. “Like a slice of pizza with the pointed end bitten off.”

It was simple geometry, really.

If the fuel cell plate was a trapezoid that tapered at one end, the flow of oxygen and hydrogen could be manipulated and the whole thing could, theoretically, be far more efficient.

RELATED: Fuel cell company that started in Chilliwack about to go public on the Toronto Stock Exchange

RELATED: Clean energy one of Canada’s fastest growing industries

He thought he had something, but he didn’t know for sure until he met Tony Edgar. Edgar was an industrial technology advisor for the National Research Council’s (NRC) Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). Friends of Leger’s who were also friends of Edgar’s suggested the two men get together, and when they did, Edgar was impressed.

“This is pretty cool,” he said.

Not long after, Leger and Shane Black hopped into an old propane-powered pickup and headed into the city. Two guys from Chilliwack, pulling into the parking lot in a truck with foam and springs sticking out of the seats, Leger figured they must have been quite a sight to the people at the NRC’s Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation.

But if anyone dismissed them at first, they were forced to re-evaluate after seeing Leger’s concept.

People who know worlds more about fuel cell technology told him that he had a couple attributes in his design that might be really important.

“Really?” Leger thought. “Tell us more!”

They drove home that day with an invite to return, and use the knowledge and resources of the NRC to make the design a reality.

All Leger had to do now was raise a few hundred thousand dollars.


Read part two of this three-part series here.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

chilliwackClean-fuel standards

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


Loop Energy had humble beginnings in Chilliwack, but the company’s 50kW fuel cell module will soon be used to power 300 municipal buses in city of Nanjing, China. (Loop Energy photo)

Loop Energy had humble beginnings in Chilliwack, but the company’s 50kW fuel cell module will soon be used to power 300 municipal buses in city of Nanjing, China. (Loop Energy photo)

Just Posted

Alisa Gusakova was one of two Grade 12 Chilliwack students who received a $5,000 Horatio Alger Canadian Scholarship earlier this year. Now, a fundraiser has been created for the teen after her mother was killed. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Fundraiser launched for daughter of Chilliwack woman killed

Money raised will help Chilliwack teen attend UFV to earn business degree

Chilliwack Search and Rescue volunteers say that a call on April 17 on Vedder Mountain was affected by bikers who rode through the rescue site, throwing rocks onto members and the patient. (Chilliwack Search and Rescue image)
Chilliwack Search and Rescue team, and patient, sprayed with rocks and dirt during rescue

Volunteer crew speaks out after riders on Vedder Mountain show no courtesy at accident scene

Agassiz Fire Department has been called to an ATV rollover on Harrison East Forest Service Road on Sunday, April 18, 2021. (Google Maps)
Agassiz Fire called out to ATV rollover incident on Harrison FSR

Morning call follows exceptionally busy Saturday as temperatures soar in Fraser Valley

A Chilliwack Search and Rescue truck heads down Vedder Road towards Cultus Lake to assist a dirtbiker with a broken leg. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Emergency crews, SAR busy with three separate outdoor recreation incidents in Chilliwack area

Calls in 1 afternoon include ATV collision, parachuter who fell from tree, dirtbiker with broken leg

Chilliwack’s historic Royal Hotel is offering COVID-style wedding packages for two weeks in June. (Facebook/ Royal Hotel Chilliwack)
Chilliwack hotel offers pop-up, COVID-style weddings for 2 weeks this June

‘Weddings can still happen, albeit in a different fashion,’ says Laura Reid of Royal Hotel

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

File photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
One man dead after shooting in Downtown Vancouver

This is Vancouver’s fifth homicide of the year

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of April 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read