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The contract is worth between $60 million and $100 million

Ballard Power Systems has agreed to develop fuel cells for Volkswagen Group under a contract worth as much as $100 million.

The deal means Ballard has to design and manufacture fuel cells for Volkswagen HyMotion demonstration cars. The contract is for four years with the possibility of a two-year extension, and is worth between $60 million and $100 million.

"I anticipate accelerating our automotive fuel cell program as a result of this collaborative effort, which will bring together additional fuel cell skills and expertise in both organizations," said Juergen Leohold, head of group research at Volkswagen AG.

Volkswagen has decided to go with Ballard's fuel cells because their cost and performance are finally able to compete with other green technologies.

Ballard's stock increased significantly at the announcement of the Volkswagen deal. On Wednesday, Ballard's stock jumped as high as 82 percent.

"The announcement of this research agreement with Volkswagen Group, a recognized global leader, is a major step for Ballard both strategically and financially," said John Sheridan, Ballard's president and CEO. "Ballard's focus with Volkswagen in this new automotive fuel cell research program will parallel our continuing work in commercial fuel cell markets for backup power and material handling — enhancing product durability and performance while radically reducing product costs."

Volkswagen has been making several green efforts as of late. In January of this year, it launched the largest solar park in the state of Tennessee at 33 acres with 33,600 solar modules.

Source: CBC News

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If you can't have science fantasy...
By Doken44 on 3/10/2013 6:49:21 PM , Rating: 5
The idea of powering standard vehicles with only solar power from only the surface area of the vehicle is a scientific impossibility. There's only so much power delivered from the sun in a limited space, even if we could achieve 110% efficiency.

I'd say this is the next best thing.
Now if only we could get thorium reactors to produce the hydrogen (and generate electricity at the same time).
...And improved storage for the hydrogen.

RE: If you can't have science fantasy...
By PoikilothermicX on 3/10/2013 8:18:44 PM , Rating: 2
I find the biggest hurdle to Hydrogen is the thought that it needs to be centrally processed and then shipped to consumers. Why use that method for something as readily available and abundant as Hydrogen? It would make far greater sense to either have every station or a central local hub providing for the area. Trucking it across the country is asinine for Hydrogen but seems to be what people currently think needs to be done.

RE: If you can't have science fantasy...
By steedsrva87 on 3/10/2013 11:58:35 PM , Rating: 2
If memory serves, Ballard and/or others put forth the idea of having the "fueling station" in your house, since hydrogen is readily available in the form of water. Granted this was back in 2000 when they had their initial contract with Ford and Mercedes. Who knows if this is as viable as say installing a charging station for an electric car though.

RE: If you can't have science fantasy...
By Solandri on 3/11/2013 11:33:49 AM , Rating: 5
No, hydrogen is not readily available in the form of water. Water is the end product - it's at a low energy state. Hydrogen gas, methane, sugar, alcohols, petroleum all have hydrogen in a high energy state. The energy you get from "burning" hydrogen (whether in an engine or a fuel cell) is what's released when you move hydrogen from a high energy state to a low energy state. Converting hydrogen from a low energy state to a high energy state requires putting in more energy than you plan to use, due to efficiency losses.

A "home fueling station" using water as its hydrogen source only works if you put the energy into the water to liberate the hydrogen. If you do it electrically, that's about 60% efficient at best. Most of our electricity is generated from coal which is about 40% efficient. Non-research hydrogen fuel cells are about 70% efficient. So the net efficiency of that chain is 40%*60%*70% = 17%, or nearly half the efficiency of a gasoline engine. We'd actually increase global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions if we tried to replace gasoline engine cars with this.

So you can't use the hydrogen in water as a fuel. (Unless you want to go to some of the more exotic reactions like with magnesium or sulfur, which yield end products with hydrogen at an even lower energy state. But those require large amounts of energy to produce the elemental magnesium and sulfur. TANSTAAFL

By Jaybus on 3/11/2013 12:33:55 PM , Rating: 2
There is a viable scenario where using water makes sense in spite of the thermodynamic inefficiency. If a nuclear reactor supplies the electricity, then the process still has about the same overall energy efficiency, but now makes sense. In fact, if a nuclear reactor is dedicated to hydrogen production, then it can directly supply the DC current with DC, rather than the usual AC, generators and have considerably better overall energy efficiency. A 1 GW nuclear facility could generate a considerable amount of hydrogen from water with zero greenhouse emissions.

By Keeir on 3/11/2013 7:24:19 PM , Rating: 2
Non-research hydrogen fuel cells are about 70% efficient.

I'd be surprized if anyone has made a 50 kW capable fuel cell able to hit 70% over 1 kW to 50 kW. Or even a 25 kW capable cell that hit 70% at ~20 kW (range extender mode).

By ShieTar on 3/11/2013 4:49:33 AM , Rating: 2
There is always the question of efficiency. About 10 years ago, when I heard some lectures on hydrogen as an energy carrier, the most power-efficient ways to generate hydrogen all involved either very high energy and pressure, or toxic process chemicals.

If a fuel-truck needs to burn 100Kg of hydrogen to transport 10 tons of hydrogen, all you need is 1% more efficiency to make this process the overall more efficient one.

RE: If you can't have science fantasy...
By lyeoh on 3/11/2013 6:59:11 AM , Rating: 2
If you want to ship lots of hydrogen around try attaching it to carbon ;).

But you need practical and affordable:
1) hydrocarbon fuel cells
2) methods of getting hydrocarbon fuels that do not "poison" the fuel cells. Whether the hydrocarbons come from the ground or are synthesized contaminants can be a problem.

By Solandri on 3/11/2013 11:20:31 AM , Rating: 2

- Liquid at room temperature and normal atmospheric pressure.
- Relatively benign if you happen to spill a bunch of it.
- High energy density (not as high as gasoline but close).
- Burns relatively cleanly, much cleaner than petroleum.

The problems are:

- Fuel cells which take alcohol are less efficient, destroying much of the advantage of fuel cells over combustion engines.
- I don't think a way has been developed to "manufacture" it from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and energy. All methods involve plants converting the C, H, and O to sugars, which are then fermented by bacteria to produce alcohol.

RE: If you can't have science fantasy...
By Lord 666 on 3/10/2013 8:34:44 PM , Rating: 2
But adding solar energy Into the hydrolysis of Ng will produce electricity, hydrogen, and water. Honda has a home unit to do so already

RE: If you can't have science fantasy...
By Solandri on 3/11/2013 11:13:26 AM , Rating: 3
The problem with that is you're taking something which already has a lousy 15% conversion efficiency (solar), converting it to hydrogen at a 50%-60% efficiency (at best), then using a fuel cell to convert it back to work at 60%-70% efficiency (also rather optimistic). The net effect is that you're at about 15%*55%*65% = 5.3% efficiency.

You'd actually be better off just growing trees (about 30% solar conversion efficiency), harvesting the wood, and burning it to power a steam engine (about 20%-25% efficiency). Net efficiency of that chain is about 6%-7%.

By Lord 666 on 3/11/2013 6:36:55 PM , Rating: 2
Your formula does not account for the value of the by-products (potable water and energy) along with it not being a linear equation (Solar is not the limiting factor).

In fact, as solar panels improve (other DT article mentions 35% overall due to process and material science improvements) truly renewable sources can be mixed in for the carbon source

RE: If you can't have science fantasy...
By Keeir on 3/11/2013 7:40:59 PM , Rating: 2
Honda has a couple of neat ideas.

But I think the real question about NG/Hydrogen is

If we are going to go through all the trouble of laying lines -everywhere- and having expensive slow refill stations at home... why not just use electricity! That already hsa lines everywhere and uses cheap slow refill stations at home.

By Lord 666 on 3/11/2013 9:20:26 PM , Rating: 2
You can't cook or shower with electricity. The ng hydrolysis is a whole household concept.

By Paj on 3/11/2013 9:27:34 AM , Rating: 2
You're wrong. Its not practical, but it certainly isnt a scientific impossibility.

Moving in the right direction
By CaedenV on 3/11/2013 10:54:44 AM , Rating: 2
I love that there is finally some movement on fuel cell tech! It is such a great tech in that there are no emissions, you don't get the same degradation over time that you get with batteries, and when you are done with it you don't have big toxic batteries to deal with. On top of it all, hydrogen fuel cells can get electric cars up to a range that more equally competes with traditional ICE vehicles, with no more safety concerns than current battery electric cars have already introduced.

But fuel cells have 2 major problems: Hydrogen production, and hydrogen storage/transfer.

On the production side you can cleanly make it via algae, solar power, or nuclear power.
Algae is neat, but it would take far too much space to produce enough hydrogen to use it as a widely used fuel.
Nuclear power is the best option, but as current nuclear plants have no plans for replacement, and new safe/clean low grade nuclear plants like TerraPower or thorium powered plants are not getting the attention or adoption that they should.
Then there is solar, which is great in that it opens up home hydrogen production possibilities, but it requires a large 6kW array (or at least the Honda one does) which is the size required to power your average solar home to begin with. I don't know about anyone else, but my home does not have enough surface area facing the sun to support 2 large solar systems, and while moving to solar power for my home will eventually have a pay-off, I doubt that the car's solar system would ever break even. The only way this would work for me is to have a single power system that does the home and car.

On the other end, there are issues of storage and transfer. When I first heard about hydrogen fuel cells back in the mid '90s the idea was that it would be like a giant battery, or like a refillable propane tank. You remove your old one at a gas station where it would be refilled, and they would insert a fresh one. Nice thing about that is that you would have a refill time of ~1 minute. The bad thing is that the cells would be really heavy so the process would need to be automated, which means that car manufacturers and countries would need to all agree to a single standard... which frankly isn't ever going to happen.
Another idea is that you have an enclosed fuel cell system that acts more like a traditional battery vehicle. The obvious down side to that is that it takes a good long time to reverse the reaction, and of course it would be at night, so you would have your solar power charging batteries (or an in-home fuel cell), and then use those batteries to charge your car overnight. It would not be awful, but that is a huge energy transfer penalty for your car. Still, this is likely the best option available, and if the range on a hydrogen vehicle is similar to an ICE vehicle where you only need to recharge it every week or so then maybe it would not be so bad.
Lastly is the idea of pumping hydrogen into a vehicle similar to pumping gasoline. If there is a way to make it safe, then great, but I would not trust your average Joe with it. Gasoline is safe because it is not immediately flammable, it is just the fumes that are flammable. Moving compressed hydrogen around on the other hand just seems like a terrible series of accidents waiting to happen.

Anywho, I am stoked to see hydrogen cars back in the picture, and I hope the tech gets somewhere this time!

By Dr. Kenneth Noisewater on 3/11/2013 4:31:35 PM , Rating: 2
Ammonia is a handy Hydrogen storage source, almost as good as Methane, and carbon-free. It should also not form NOx if it's not combusted. Coupled with a SOFC it could solve the H2 storage problem.

FC serial hybrids
By bildan on 3/10/2013 4:19:31 PM , Rating: 2
To many it seems a fuel cell make the perfect "range-extender" for serial hybrids assuming the production, distribution and storage of hydrogen is worked out.

I'm not from Canada
By Schmide on 3/10/2013 9:58:27 PM , Rating: 2
But I'm sure all the mullet munchers would be proud that Ballard Power Systems resides in British Columbia.

Fuel Cell
By btc909 on 3/11/13, Rating: 0
RE: Fuel Cell
By ShieTar on 3/11/2013 4:52:41 AM , Rating: 2
The contract is with the Volkswagen Group, so the cells might as well end up in a Bentley, Bugatti or Lamborghini instead of a VW Golf.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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