Glamour's Gone: Ballard Moves on to the More Mundane

Ballard restructures and explores markets from forklifts to back-up power in effort to stay in business.

Published: 06-Jan-2008

VANCOUVER -- You've admitted the holy grail is out of reach. Now what?

That's the question for Ballard Power Systems Inc., which last fall set aside its long quest to revolutionize the auto industry with fuel-cell cars to focus on markets where it stands a better chance of making money sooner.

Long-suffering Ballard shareholders, some of whom have stuck with the company since its first hydrogen-powered bus hit the streets in 1993, might be suffering from whiplash. Once a stock market darling, Ballard raised more than $500-million after going public in 1993 and spent millions on research and development for fuel cell-powered cars. But the custom-assembled autos never made it into showrooms. Despite steady improvements in the size and efficiency of the hydrogen fuel cell (which mixes hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity and emits only water vapour), each car costs about $1-million to produce and there is no infrastructure to fuel them.

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