Inside Logistics

Ballard Power turns 40

Fuel cell pioneer sees wide adoption of the technology

May 23, 2019

VANCOUVER – Ballard Power Systems celebrated its 40th anniversary of its founding in 1979. The company hosted a celebratory reception at its headquarters on May 21, with a number of dignitaries in attendance including Paul Howard, a Ballard co-founder and energy visionary.

Ballard Power Systems was founded in Vancouver by Geoffrey Ballard, Keith Prater and Paul Howard to conduct research and development of high-energy lithium batteries. Four years later, after a research breakthrough, proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells became a primary focus of the company’s work and Ballard has since established itself as a global leader in the PEM fuel cell industry.

Ballard’s IPO and listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange occurred in 1993 and the company was subsequently listed on the Nasdaq exchange in 1995.

Paul Howard, Co-founder of Ballard Power Systems commented in a recent interview, “It takes time for new technologies to really manifest themselves into practical use …. So, I say to the doubters: we need the benefits of hydrogen. For humankind to survive, we need hydrogen, which is essentially a limitless source of energy.”

“At Ballard, our vision is simple and enduring – we deliver fuel cell power for a sustainable planet. What has changed today is the ability to point to numbers – actual technology and products operating in the field,” said Randy MacEwen, Ballard president and CEO.

“The industry today is powering over 25,000 fuel cell forklifts, more than 12,000 fuel cell cars, and over 2,000 fuel cell buses and commercial trucks, all of which are operating in the field. So for the first time in our 40-year history, we can point to real market adoption happening.”

“At the same time, the technology has been validated. We’ve delivered dramatic cost reduction on the technology and product front while also seeing significant performance improvements. The next leg of cost reduction will continue to include innovations – technology, product and manufacturing innovations and improvements that will drive costs down – but it will also include, for the first time, the benefits of scaling and supply chain. There is mounting evidence that the shift to zero-emission transportation is accelerating and that fuel cell electric vehicles, or FCEVs, will play an integral role.”

Over its history, Ballard has invested more than $1 billion in research and development to advance PEM fuel cell technology and has produced over 5 megawatts of PEM fuel cell products. Today Ballard’s 700+ employees design, manufacture and sell fuel cell products that contribute to CO2 emission reductions in various mobility applications.

Ballard believes there are large and attractive addressable markets and use cases for Heavy and Medium Duty Motive applications – such as city buses, coaches, delivery trucks, drayage trucks, long-haul trucks, trains, trams and certain marine applications – where FCEVs offer a strong value proposition. These vehicles require long daily range, fast refueling, carry a heavy payload and also enable zero-emissions.

Ballard expects early adoption in markets where the value proposition is strongest and where the barriers to hydrogen refueling infrastructure are lowest, such as centralized depot refueling.  These market segments are now bracing for a shift away from pure diesel vehicles into alternative powertrain systems.