Ballard Power Systems (BLDP), a nearly three-decades-old forefather of the fuel cell industry, said today it’s “reviewing strategic alternatives” for its automotive fuel cell assets — corporate speak for a possible sale. In explaining the move, the Vancouver, B.C.-based hydrogen fuel cell developer cited “the lengthy projected timeline to commercialization and high cost of development.”
Ballard has had a tough time getting the economically cumbersome hydrogen cell technology to market. The company says that it is currently in talks with Daimler (DAI) and Ford (F) over its automotive fuel cell assets but made no guarantees of a deal and won’t comment again until negotiations are complete. Still, news of the talks sent Ballard’s shares up nearly 12 percent to close at $5.60.
Ballard hasn’t turned a profit in nearly 10 years. While the company has been in the fuel cell space longer than most of its competitors, the market itself has failed to develop, and it doesn’t appear to be moving into the mainstream anytime soon.
A veritable think tank for green entrepreneurs, Ballard and its rotating executive staff have created a myriad of spinoffs and startups, some successful, like Xantrex, and some not so much, like BlueStar Battery Systems. GreenTechMedia has an excellent pedigree of the greater Ballard family and the many Ballard babies that have been conceived over the years.
Daimler already holds an 18.7 percent stake Ballard; Ford has an 11.2 percent stake. If the current talks are successful, maybe ownership of the assets by one of the auto giants will yield great improvements in the science or economics of hydrogen fuel cells. Then again, maybe fuel cell makers just need to get a little dirtier.