Ballard Says Fuel Cells, Batteries Not Competitors

Ballard Says Fuel Cells, Batteries Not Competitors

Different technologies for powering environmentally friendly electric cars will co-exist in the future rather than compete, officials of Ford Motor Co. and Canadian fuel cell developer Ballard Power Systems Inc. said.

Ballard, which is considered in the forefront of fuel cell development, held a ceremony to accept delivery from Ford of a prototype battery-powered car -- a design that will potentially rival cars powered by Ballard's electricity producing fuel cells.

Ballard and Ford officials told reporters it was important for the public to know that electric cars are the way of the future regardless of whether they use batteries or fuel cells.

"As we're going forward in the future we're going to see a variety of different vehicles and different power trains basically to satisfy different needs," said Ballard chief financial officer Paul Lancaster.

The vehicle delivered on Thursday was produced by Ford's TH!NK electric vehicle unit and was designed for urban driving. Resembling an overstuffed suitcase with wheels, it has a range of 90 kilometers between charges.

Ford said it intends to test 50 of the vehicles in Canada. Ford officials said TH!NK cars are being sold in Scandinavia and the company hopes to have them available in North America within two years.

Commercial production of fuel cell-powered cars is not expected until 2004.

Fuel cell cars will be more popular with drivers who travel greater distances than battery powered cars can deliver, so consumers will pick between them the same way they now choose between internal combustion engines, Lancaster said.

"I don't necessarily say that battery vehicles are bad, it just has certain characteristics that might pre-select who the buyer of that vehicle is," Lancaster said.

Fuel cells, which are designed to generate electricity through chemical reaction rather than mechanical action, are seen as environmentally friendly because, using certain fuels, they produce only water and heat as byproducts.