DISCLAIMER: I own stock in this company. I have for quite some time. It has given me a very handsome return so far, but I still liken it to buying Ford stock in the 1910s. I feel this company has a BRIGHT global-reaching future of tremendous proportions, and I expect to own it for a long, long time. I think it will do well in developed countries, and it will do well in non-developed countries, too. It offers cheap, efficient power from a variety of fuel sources, and EVERYONE needs that.
Updates to the page:
7/4/2004: Well - below you will see that I made the assertion that when gasoline came back down in price a bit, the difference in costs between grades would revert back to the "10 cent per gallon" from the temporarily instituted 8-cent a gallon differential. Well, I was right. But, in a surprise move from Shell - they have formulated some new gasoline - so good is THIS gas, that it is a full 12 cents more costly than the grade below it, and this V-Power gas is their top grade. I have not bought any to give it a try, but maybe I will - just for kicks and giggles. Also, there is a neat web site that I go to on occasion Gas Price Watch, where you can bookmark some nearby gasoline stations and watch, and graph, the prices of fuel.
ORIGINAL PAGE CONTENT:
Ballard Power Systems designs and produces Fuel Cells. These are an engine of sort, which turns a fuel (methanol, gasoline, hydrogen, among others) into electricity in a zero emission process. I think that demands retyping: zero-emission. These fuel cells also have no moving parts. (Have you looked under the hood of your car lately?) Ballard has made these fuel cells as large as 250KW for use as a power plant for a city. In the mid range, they have made them for public buses for the Chicago Transit Authority (which recently finished a two-year test with on a couple buses.) On the smaller end, Ballard has teamed up with a Tokyo company to produce 1KW generators for homes in Japan - that factory is being built. Currently, I think there is also an agreement with Coleman to produce fuel cells for portable and standby power products. Also, Ballard, the State of California, Ford and others formed the California Fuel Cell Partnership - Driving for the Future to place vehicles on the road for real-world testing sometime between 2000 and 2003.
The biggest news came earlier this year, when Ballard announced it Mark 900 fuel cell. It was 30% smaller than it's predecessor, 30% more powerful, and was about half the physical size. This is the fuel cell targeting automobile use. Ballard has contracts with every automobile manufacturer in the world (I think - there was quite a few that I had never heard of myself). Mercedes has a vehicle in testing which uses a fuel cell and a Internal Combustion Engine. So does Ford. What got me was when the CEO of Ford, earlier this year, made the statement (this is going to be close - I will find the article at some point and post it) "the fuel cell marks the end of the 100 year reign of the internal combustion engine." Funny, Ballard floated a bunch more stock earlier this year, and then announced that they are going to build a plant in Detroit. Wonder what will be produced there? Hmmm . . . .
Of course, the fuel of choice is hydrogen. I am not sure how hydrogen manufacturers would make out if fuel cells took off, seeing as how you can choke hydrogen out of just about anything. Most people point to the Hindenberg when you start discussing hydrogen, but the hydrogen did not explode to cause that disaster. In fact, there was a sister ship to the Hindenberg, which flew for over a million miles after the Hindenberg disaster. Most hydrogen bashers claim there will be "Hindenbergs colliding on the highways causing giant chains of exploding fireballs." Of course, gasoline is much more volatile than hydrogen is. I see lots of movies where cars blow up when they collide, or even funnier, when they are shot "just right." Reality is that I have seen several cars on fire, on the side of the road, but none of them ever blew up. Kind of weird. I have heard of, in Florida, and other hot places at times, of gasoline tankers exploding. I have never seen this happen, so I am not sure if it true. And, I haven't heard of any gas stations exploding either. Of course, hydrogen disasters are just as rare.
So, here is where I see things going: You buy a car with a fuel cell in it. In a perfect world, it would run on Natural Gas, which most Americans already have piped into their homes (here in the Mid-West, natural gas in cheap, man). So, your Ford Fuel Cell Taurus SHO has, let's say a 125KW fuel cell in it and a high pressure tank full of natural gas. When you get home, you attach a high pressure hose to your car, which is hooked up to the city gas, a compressor and a small tank at your house, and it automatically fills the tank on your vehicle. Now, that is convenient, eh? Wouldn't it be great if every time you left your house, your tank was clear full? I am one of those people who would love to see the monopolistic gas companies go away forever (Amoco offers a gasoline credit card which doubles as a Visa - the interest rate is 25.75% - what a rip-off). Don't think they are a monopoly? Ha! I want to know why, then, when we dropped the first bombs during Desert Storm, I left work and AT EVERY GASOLINE STATION the price of a gallon of gas went up 10 cents per gallon? I drove around and asked almost a dozen attendants at gas stations if they had gotten a fuel delivery, every single one said no. I asked why the gas had gone up. They said they got a call and were told to raise it. I asked them if it had anything to do with the war in the Mid-East? Blank stares. Typical. (None of them knew the amount of tax per gallon of gas either. [In fact, I asked a gasoline attendant today (the credit card reader was busted at the pump I pulled into), you know, just for kicks and giggles (6/16/2000) and he told me that the tax was the .9 cents, and that was it - oh my goodness!] Bottom line, though, is that every gas station suddenly raised the price of their fuel in the tanks at the gas stations. Their cost had not gone up. They just felt that the value had gone up. Funny thing is: everyone still bought gasoline. Why? Because we have no choice. It is a monopoly, and when EVERY station raises their prices by 10% within one hour, across the country, I call that collusion. Price fixing. What other reason could their possibly be? It is times like this that I wish I was an attorney, because that was illegal what they did, but no-one has ever said a word about it. Here is another one for you: Used to be that the difference in price between the grades was 10 cents per gallon. Since prices have gone up, that difference has dropped to 8 cents a gallon, per grade. Did they finally get that process more efficient? 20% more efficient? If gasoline drops in price to like 85 cents a gallon will the difference in the grades still be 8 cents, or will they go by ten cents? I will make the call right here today: since gasoline companies are a monopoly, the price differential will go back to ten cents. Anyone taking bets?
Anyway, back to the fuel cells, and here is the best part: what if you could also plug your car into a high-voltage electrical socket in your garage and leave your fuel cell vehicle running (which, remember is making no noise, and causing no vibration and most importantly, emitting no emissions)?? The car is producing electricity now, and so that electricity flows through this special socket (which is nothing more than a fat line like the one feeding your house now) into your house to power your A/C, refrigerator and lights and such. This takes the load off of the power that you are sucking from the utility company. In fact, you might produce MORE electricity than you use (specially at night), in which case the meter on your house would turn backwards, and so the electric company is crediting you for that power. How would you like to have a zero bill or have them cut you a check every month? Think about this: most families are two income homes. Each has a car. When they both leave for work, they are driving both their power sources away from home. Who is at home using electricity? Nobody is. When you come home, you cook, do dishes, laundry, lights, TV, computer, etc. Who is using electricity? Somebody who just drove there. So, the power source is moving with you. If companies were smart, they would have hookups in the parking lot, and buy power from their employees, instead of the power company, then they don't even need their own fuel cells at office buildings. Why would they? Better yet, let people work from home, where they belong in the first place.
But, as gasoline prices go up, so will Ballard's stock. And, I can guarantee you this: as soon as a model is available to me, I will be one of the first people to buy them. I am tired of being controlled by OPEC (who can't seem to control themselves very much).
Ford and DiamlerChrysler Further Fund
Fuel Cell Development - 7/9/4
British Columbian Report on Fuel Cells
Goodbye Battery, Hello Fuel Cell - 1/31/2000
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