Cablegate: British Columbia Is Global Leader in Fuel Cell Technology

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary. British Columbia (BC) has the world's largest
concentration of fuel cell and hydrogen technology research and
expertise. CG and DPO recently visited Ballard Power Systems, a
private company, as well as the National Research Council Canada
Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation, and Fuel Cells Canada, the
industry organization. These organizations have developed a
hydrogen and fuel cell strategy that aims to solidify British
Columbia's position in this sector, and that focuses efforts on
development of a hydrogen highway by the 2010 Winter Olympic
Games. End summary.

2. According to National Research Council Canada, roughly 88
percent of global research and development of fuel cell and
hydrogen technology takes place in Canada; 72 percent in British
Columbia and 16 percent in Ontario/Quebec. The United States
accounts for 7 percent. In BC, this sector employs 1800 people
at over 40 companies, and accounts for almost 2.5 billion
dollars in investment, expenditures, and government funding.
While the primary focus of research is on personal vehicles
(there are five fuel cell powered Ford vehicles in use in
Vancouver), companies are also developing technology for home
heating and uninterruptible power systems.

3. Government and private sector efforts have crystallized
around the concept of a hydrogen highway, linking Vancouver
International Airport with Whistler, venue for most 2010 Olympic
events. Hydrogen powered buses will run this route, fueling at
strategically located refueling facilities. Passenger cars and
delivery vehicles will incorporate Ballard fuel cell systems.
Westport-Cummins engines in highway buses will be fueled with
hythane from combined natural gas and hydrogen stations. Fuel
cell forklifts will provide material handling support. Plans
call for this hydrogen highway eventually to connect BC with

4. Ballard Power Systems, which considers itself a world leader
in hydrogen fuel cell technology, is 30 percent owned by
Ford/Daimler and accounts for 50 percent of the total hydrogen
fuel cell industry in Canada. According to Ballard's VP, the US
is its top contributor in government support and development
spending for fuel cell technology as an alternative automotive
energy source. Ballard also works closely with US Department of
Energy in developing worldwide standards. And of the 150 fuel
cell vehicles already on roadways around the globe, the US
possesses 90 of them.

5. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles run on hydrogen created from
natural gas or wind energy and they produce no emissions. The
challenges currently faced by this industry, however, include
affordability, durability, and power density. Each car still
costs about $1 million dollars and the engines do not start at
temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Ballard asserts that
these vehicles will be commercially viable by 2010. Ballard's
VP would like to strengthen his company's already existing
partnerships with the US and look to other US industries and the
public sector to help reach Ballard's ultimate goal: to fully
develop and market fuel cell automotive vehicles, both cars and
buses, that will increase energy security and supply in North
America, improve air quality and climate change conditions.

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