Daimler announced this week a partnership in the development of fuel cell technology which includes the grandaddy of that industry, Ballard Power Systems of Burnaby, British Columbia. Ballard (BLD-T)(BLDP-OTC) has, since the 1980s, been quietly developing its PEM fuel cell technology.
Several years ago, (2009) I posted an article entitled, the future of energy, where I laid out the probability of Fuel Cell stacks such as Ballards stacking technology, being developed to the point where they will easily power buses, fork lifts, ships, trains, small towns, and eventually big cities. In the beginning, many pundits speculated on the development of pure hydrogen fuel cell cars. Eventually those same people began to discount what they called the hydrogen economy, saying that fuel cell cars probably would not ever replace the internal combustion engine.
Since then, there have been inumerable articles and arguments both con and pro, fuel cell investments. Ballard, (and a number of other fuel cell companies nicknamed baby Ballards, such as Plug Power) saw their share prices subsequently wane as investors grew weary of the argument. Ballard, having partnered earlier with auto makers such as Ford and Chrysler, basically sold off their auto technology to those entities. They concentrated on larger vehicles such as buses, and most recently, the fork lift industry.
Where I believe Ballard really shines is in their fuel cell stacking technology which last year, allowed them to supply a small town in Ohio with a fuel cell power plant as a factory size test of such technology. (see: Worlds largest fuel cell power generations system being tested in Ohio)
Think of towns and cities of the future being powered entirely by hydrogen fel cells, with absolutely no pollution as the only byproduct of the technology is pure water (H2O). How about cruise ships, tankers, industries and buildings being powered in the same way. Ballard recently contracted with India to supply over 10,000 smaller stacking units for their growing wireless industry in that country.
Ballard now has fuel cell buses being tested in London, California, Vancouver and Amsterdam. They are now building fuel cell fork lifts and plan on supplying that market, anywhere in the world where clean energy is a must. Now, Daimler has announced that it will power its fuel cell fleet with Ballard technology.
This technology, especially its use in stacking up to power plants capable of powering entire populations, just makes sense. Couple hydrogen fuel cell plant power with the emergence of the electric vehicle industry (our investments in lithium production) and, I believe, you will have a big winner, especially in places like China and India. Here in North America natural gas is very abundant with new fracking technologies allowing for an untapped bonanza of natural gas energy capable of powering us for 200 years.
As it turns out, natural gas is a great feed source for hydrogen. In other words, Fuel cells can easily run on natural gas!