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.


The system operates from the Calor Gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or propane that is already on board for cooking. The system will fit comfortably in an aft locker, normally used for a conventional generator.

The Cadillac Provoq fuel cell concept uses GM's E-Flex propulsion system, combining the new fifth-generation fuel cell system and a lithium-ion battery to produce an electrically driven vehicle that uses no petroleum and has no emission other than water.

Powered by a 100 kW electric engine and fuel cell stack, the i-Blue is capable of running more than 370 miles per refueling and achieves a maximum speed of more than 100 miles per hour.


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