Dream of hydrogen car goes down in flames

Ballard — 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:

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Hydrogen highway hits dead endBallard’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….