BURNABY, B.C. — Ballard PowerSystems has never been out of the automotive business completely, but the Canadian hydrogen fuel cell pioneer has flown below the radar while growing its revenue base else-where.
Twenty years ago, the suburban Vancouver company seemed on the cusp of becoming the standard in fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) development.
Allied with major automakers such as Ford, Daimler-Benz and Chrysler, Ballard’s fuel cell stacks — converting hydrogen to electricity — were destined to power the industry into that brave new world.
But commercialization has dragged, slowed by technological hurdles, low oil prices, the laggard pace of building hydrogen-refueling infrastructure, and relative indifference from Canadian and U.S. policymakers.
Ballard’s original automotive partners and other prospective customers also opted to strike out on their own.
The technology promises zero-emission transportation from an infinitely renewable fuel source.
“Ballard as long as 20 years ago was seen as the company that was going to introduce fuel cells for all kinds of vehicles,” says Donald Saxman, a Houston-based analyst with BCC Research of Wellesley, Mass.