Ballard Power (TSX:BLD) is among the heaviest traders on the TSX today, after a flurry of press releases this month.
Yesterday, Ballard reported it will provide fuel cells to buses in Aberdeen, Scotland, making that city’s fleet of ten buses the largest in Europe to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The deal came about from a partnership with Van Hool NV, Europe’s fourth largest bus manufacturer, and will extend to two more buses in Cologne, Germany.
That news came a day after the company announced it had sold a 175-kilowatt ClearGen distributed generation fuel cell system to Azure Hydrogen Energy Science and Technology Corp, Ballard’s partner in China. Providing fuel cell solutions for backup power has become a significant part of Ballard’s business of late.
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Casual observers who thought Ballard had given on fuel cells for non-commercial vehicles might have been surprised last week when the company announced it had had signed an agreement with Volkswagen to develop fuel cells in demonstration vehicles. The contract, says Ballard, is valued at between $60-million to $100-million, and the timing came about because of the recent expiration of the five-year automotive non-compete agreement.
High costs, improved battery technology, and newly abundant natural gas reserves began to sway momentum to other types of green vehicles, and Ballard’s stock, once of the high-fliers in all of cleantech, plummeted to below $4 by 2007. The Vancouver-based company appeared to be out of the automotive market forever.
But fuel cells may be back in play in the automobile business. Recently, Ford, Renault-Nissan and Daimler, with the help of Ballard, announced they had agreed to jointly develop a fuel cell system to try to and advance the availability of zero-emission vehicles. According to group vice president of global product development at Ford, Raj Nair, the company is pursuing the initiative because the cost of fuel cell production has come down. The group expects to launch “the world’s first affordable, mass-market fuel cell car” by 2017.
At press time, shares of Ballard Power on the TSX were up 16% to $1.45.