Dream of hydrogen car goes down in flames

hindenburg-771072.jpgBallard — the Canadian fuel cell company that once hoped to be the Intel inside of the hydrogen car revolution — has sold off its automotive fuel cell business to Daimler and Ford.

You can listen to a good CBC radio story on it, which includes an interview of me (click on “Listen to the Current,” Part 2). You can read Toronto Star columnist Tyler Hamilton on the story here. A Financial Post post piece headlines the story bluntly:

Hydrogen highway hits dead end
Ballard’s talks with potential buyers is admission that dream of hydrogen fuel car is dead: analyst

The story has a keen interpretation of the sale’s meaning from Research Capital analyst Jon Hykawy:

[Ballard] would never contemplate such as move if it thought it had any chance of making good on the millions it has poured into that research — and the vast financing it has been able to raise with promises of the hydrogen highway, a route to the future that has never materialized, but seduced investors with visions of cars that spewed only water from their tailpipes.

“If you knew, talking to your automotive partners, that they had a commercialization timeline that was three to five years out, I suspect you would be holding tight,” said Mr. Hykawy.

Hykaway, like most independent observers of the automobile industry, is far more realistic about hydrogen than most advocates:

In my view, the hydrogen car was never alive. The problem was never could you build a fuel cell that would consume hydrogen, produce electricity, and fit in a car. The problem was always, can you make hydrogen fuel at a price point that makes any sense to anybody. And the answer to that to date has been no.”

I hate to say I told you so — okay, I don’t hate it, and in fact what would be the point of a blogger who did hate it? — but if I’ve said it once….

10 Responses to Dream of hydrogen car goes down in flames

  1. Ronald says:

    It’s too bad hydrogen has hit its end. I remember reading not to long ago from its advocates of how great it was going to be. One advocate was from RMI, which has been disappointing, I was expecting more wins and fewer failures from them. But at least we get rid of the failures and losers before we are to far into them, so we can invest in the winners.

    It has been a few years since I heard anything, but Iceland was considering making the whole Island Hydrogen powered. I’m sure they have reconsidered that.

  2. Ted Townsend says:

    Hydrogen did not hit an end, Ballard Power hit an end. Honda has a new Hydrogen fuel cell powered hybrid that is being shipped to people in Ca. that live and work near hydrogen refuling stations.

  3. dogg says:

    hydrogen will live much longer :) no end specially when you can run every car on water & hydrogen !
    check it :

  4. Tim says:

    This is crazy! It’s clear that big auto offered Ballard big money to buy its tech and keep its mouth shut. Hydrogen can be produced cheaply with clean power! Home Grown Hydrogen Stations are the FRANCHISE of the future!

  5. Electrolyzer says:

    Truth is, Hydrogen has not died, nor have Daimler and Ford bought Ballard out for malicious purposes. I was recently at Alternative Fuels Day at Ivy Tech in Lafayette, IN, and Ford was running a fuel cell car on a dyno. Now does it look like Hydrogen has died? I think not.

    One of the main “problems” of a hydrogen economy is the “need” for a hydrogen infrastructure. There is no need for an infrastructure. Basic chemistry tells us that if you apply electric current to water, it splits into its basic elements, HYDROGEN and OXYGEN. Then, all you have to do is feed that hydrogen through the fuel cell and combine it with the oxygen after the fuel cell has run its course, and it turns back into WATER. THen, condense that water and send it back to the WATER TANK to be ELECTROLYZED again.

  6. Dr N Saikia says:

    With Crude Oil prices hitting the roof, Hydrogen fuel needs to be looked into with greater Government support

  7. A P Sharma says:

    Use of LPG to produce Hydrogen in a Fuel Cell is the most viable option costing around $2.00 per gallon of Gasoline equivalent

  8. BEC has just made such a device that fits most gasoline vehicles, you just don’t have to visit the pump as often. $19.95. Available at and you can read about it at affiliated It uses a car’s wasted energy to create reasonably useful hydrogen, but not so much as to be dangerous. I have one on my Jaguar, and I’m thrilled. It’s clean, more powerful per se, quiet, there’s no dangerous storage tank, and there aren’t any special gas station connections needed. It doesn’t replace gasoline completely, though A Check Exact labs has already officially proven the old technology could if necessary: old tech with new cost effectiveness. Remember the technology is so cheap that they even used it long ago to fill and fly the Hindenburg faster and better than oceanic shipping. Who are you going to believe?

  9. Derrick B. says:

    Yes I would definitely give this technology at least 5 or 10 more years before calling it dead… unfortunately, changing cars the way we know them is not something that will come overnight… remember when cell phones used to be the size of a shoe? Surely technology can continue to advance with the right people working on it and the right funding.

  10. Ryan says:

    Look into reading “Smelling Land, the hydrogen defence against climate catastrophe” It’s certainly changed the way I look at the earths energy systems. The book doesn’t claim to have all the answers it explains methods of thinking about the system as a whole vs micro systems ei – transportation vs. the fuel cell coupe.

    Hopefully hydrogen prevails. There are lots of hurdles to making it viable, but nothing we cannot conquer, that I am sure of.

    One fact- Hydrogen has 3 times more energy pure molecule than gasoline! Sure it’s terribly spaced out (not dense) but technologies surly must be able to help with that problem in short order!

    I am getting sick of these fossil fuels in the light of a serious enviromental problems. How silly and slow our policy makers are in the light of such grave danger.