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Ballard Power FAQ site
Last updated: March 17, 2000

This FAQ is the product of a combined effort of many contributors to the BLDP Board at The Motley Fool. Most of us are personal investors with day jobs unrelated to this effort. We have researched this information on our own using our own resources and personal time. The ideas and opinions expressed here, unless otherwise attributed to a specific source, are those of the individual contributors, and do not represent The Motley Fool, the industries or companies mentioned, or specifically Ballard Power or any of its subsidiaries, associates, partners, or collaborators. We have a vested interest in BLDP as shareholders, but we have tried to maintain objectivity. Although we frankly admit we hope everyone will invest in BLDP, driving the price of the stock up and making us all wealthy, we encourage dissenting points of view and cheerfully admit we could be wrong. We believe the future earnings and growth of BLDP will justify not only its current valuation, but also a future valuation much higher than today's. We also believe investing in BLDP is risky. We could all lose money on this investment.

None of what is presented in this FAQ should be interpreted as investment advice or recommendations. We consider it to be very unFoolish for anyone to take our opinions for granted as factual or correct. We will undoubtably find mistakes which we intend to correct as they are discovered. We know that spammers, touters, hirelings, financial parasites and prostitutes, and other shameless types create web pages, posts, and organizations to convince investors to part with their money. We hope not to have included any such here, but we cannot vouch for the verity of everything included in the references and links we have discovered. We present the information in this FAQ only as a resource and a starting point for your own personal investigation of BLDP and the related industries and companies to which we have referred. We encourage you to be skeptical and follow Foolish principles espoused at The Motley Fool.

We have divided the questions into sectors. We recommend that you scroll through the outline first to find your question. Although we have attempted to include links in each section that pertain to that section, there is much overlap. Virtually every company or organization having anything to do with fuel cells or hydrogen has a Q&A or FAQ of their own. We encourage you to pursue these other resources. We have also included additional general links at the end of this FAQ that will be useful. We hope you enjoy your learning experience about fuel cells and BLDP as much as we have.

SUGGESTION: There is no substitute to reading and following the posts on this and other related boards. There are too many topics and too many opinions to be summarized or even included on this board. We suggest you find posts on topics you are looking for, then click at the top of the page on the “Threaded” link and follow the discussion before posting questions to the board. You may more easily find your answer in this manner. Good luck and welcome to the BLDP Board!


Technology of Fuel Cells
Technology of Hydrogen
Other Alternative Fuels
The Fuel Cell Industry
The Future and the Finances of the Fuel Cell Industry
Ballard Power Corporate and Financial Strength
Ballard Power Competition
Companies/Agencies with Synergies to Ballard Power
Editorial Comment
Summary Statement

Technology of Fuel Cells

Q. What is a fuel cell?

A. A fuel cell is a device that combines elements or fuels chemically to produce energy without combustion. In a PEM fuel cell hydrogen gas flows through the anode and oxygen through the cathode, which are separated by a membrane, lined with a catalyst, usually platinum. The proton of the hydrogen molecule is attracted through the membrane to the oxygen on the other side where it wants to combine to form water. The electron from the hydrogen molecule can't pass through the membrane, but is still attracted to the oxygen. So the electron must pass around the membrane to get to the other side. Channeling this flow of electrons creates dc electric current which can be used for any purpose requiring electricity.

Q. What does” PEM” mean?

A. PEM is an acronym that stands for Proton Exchange Membrane or Polymer Electrolyte Membrane.

Q. What other kinds of fuel cells are there?

A. Solid oxide, alkaline or carbonate, and phosphoric acid are three other common types of fuel cells. Fuel cells are named for the electrolyte used in the cell.

Q. What are the exhaust products or byproducts of fuel cells?

A. When pure hydrogen and oxygen are used as fuel for the fuel cell the only byproducts are pure water and heat. When hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline or methanol are used the byproducts include carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gases. The byproducts depend on the fuel used and the electrolyte in the fuel cell. Regardless of the type of fuel cell, almost none of the sulfur and nitrogen containing air pollutants created by combustion are released by fuel cells, and carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gases can be greatly reduced when hydrocarbons are used as fuels.

Q. What can a fuel cell do?

A. A fuel cell simply creates electrical power. It is not an engine. It can be used for any purpose requiring electricity, such as powering an electric car, generating power for a home or business, or replacing the power produced by batteries in appliances.

Q. What are the advantages of fuel cells over an internal combustion engine, coal-fired power plant, nuclear power or any other form of power generation?

A. The main advantages of fuel cells over combustion and nuclear power are: first, they can dramatically reduce pollution and related environmental concerns by reducing or eliminating dangerous byproducts of combustion or nuclear waste. Second, since a fuel cell can run on pure hydrogen, of which there is an inexhaustible supply, our dependence on a finite natural resource is reduced. Third, when necessary, fuel cells can run on a wide variety of different fuels including gasoline, methanol and other alcohols, natural gas, biogas, landfill gas, and other hydrocarbon fuels. Other clean power sources such as solar, hydroelectric, wind, and geothermal power cannot be easily or efficiently stored for later or peak times of use. Hydrogen, however, can be stored at any time for later power generation, and can be used to augment other clean sources of power.

Fuel Cell 2000 Online Fuel Cell Information Center:

US Department of Energy Fuel Cell web site

Fuel Cell 2000 Q&A web site:

National Fuel Cell Research Center web site:
Ballard Power FAQ web site:
The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Letter
Tokyo Gas schematic of a home fuel cell and hot water and power generation:

Technology of Hydrogen

Q. Why is hydrogen a good fuel?

A. Hydrogen is an inexhaustible resource. It is contained in water (H2O) which covers 70% of the earth's surface. It is colorless and odorless. It is easily extracted from water by electrolysis (applying an electric current to water) and other methods, and easily chemically re-combines with oxygen to create clean power and water without other byproducts that are dangerous to humans and to the environment. The energy to produce hydrogen for fuel cells can be generated from clean renewable energy sources such as solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, tide or other natural power source. Hydrogen can also be obtained from more traditional hydrocarbons (fossil fuels) with less polluting byproducts than combustion. When fossil fuel or combustion (such as a coal-fired power plant) or nuclear power generation are used as a centralized power source for hydrogen production, the waste products can be more easily mitigated (controlled and reduced) than when combustion occurs at the consumer level (as with automobile exhaust).

Q. How dangerous is hydrogen?

A. Hydrogen has a safety record superior to that of traditional combustible fuels. An independent study of hydrogen in a fuel cell powered car commissioned by Ford Motor Company conducted by Directed Technologies, Inc., included a detailed risk assessment of several most probable or most severe hydrogen accident scenarios, such as:
· Fuel tank fire or explosion in unconfined spaces
· Fuel tank fire or explosion in tunnels
· Fuel line leaks in unconfined spaces
· Fuel leak in garage
· Refueling station accidents

The conclusion of this study is that in a collision in open spaces, a safety-engineered hydrogen fuel cell car should have less potential hazard than either natural gas or a gasoline vehicle. Other comments on hydrogen volatility, combustibility, and suitability as a fuel are summarized on the web sites of the American Hydrogen Association, the International Association for Hydrogen Technology, and many other web sites as well. These conclude that hydrogen is at least as safe as gasoline, methanol, natural gas, kerosene, and propane, and in some respects safer when each is properly handled. Hydrogen is indeed volatile, but it is in the same safety range as its hydrocarbon counterparts.

In discussing a potential car crash hydrogen fuel has been deemed less dangerous than other volatile fuels.

"Should an explosion occur, hydrogen has the lowest explosive energy per unit stored… and a given volume of hydrogen would have 22 times less explosive energy than the same volume filled with gasoline vapor."

"Conclusions and recommendations

In conclusion, hydrogen appears to pose risks of the same order of magnitude as other fuels. In spite of public perception, in many aspects hydrogen is actually a safer fuel than gasoline and natural gas. As a matter of fact, hydrogen has a very good safety record, as a constituent of the “town gas” widely used in Europe and USA in the 19th and early 20th century, as a commercially used industrial gas, and as a fuel in space programs. There have been accidents, but nothing that would characterize hydrogen as more dangerous than other fuels."


Safety issues of hydrogen in vehicles
Frano Barbir
Energy Partners
1501 Northpoint Pkwy, #102
West Palm Beach, FL 33407, U.S.A.

Q. What about the Hindenburg?

A. There is still a lot of myth and speculation about the Hindenburg. In an excerpt from his book, “The Philosopher Mechanic” the author, Roy McAlister discusses the myths surrounding the Hindenburg disaster. He shows that the demise of the zeppelin had far more to do with the flammability of the membrane than the hydrogen inside. “The newer Hindenburg had crossed the Atlantic 21 times and used a Goodyear-formula for a gelatin-latex membrane to contain the hydrogen in the gas cells. Much attention was paid to the silver airship image that displayed giant swastikas on the tail section. The silver appearance of the Hindenburg was due to a surface varnish of powdered aluminum in a paint formula that resembles the chemistry of modern solid booster rocket fuel.” The witnesses to the crash clearly described flames, which would be invisible if the ignited material were hydrogen gas. The hydrogen vented quickly in all directions, and since none of the dead or the survivors were burned by hydrogen flames, it is more likely that lightening ignited the “rocket fuel”-like membrane, not the hydrogen.

Q. Who uses hydrogen today?

A. Products associated with hydrogen are found throughout the marketplace. Hydrogen is both produced by and consumed by the petrochemical industry in the manufacture of gasoline, heating oil, and chemicals such as ammonia and methanol. Fertilizers, glass, refined metals, vitamins, cosmetics, semiconductor circuits, soaps, lubricants, cleaners, margarine, peanut butter and rocket fuel all use hydrogen in their production. Millions of pounds of hydrogen are consumed daily in production plants across the country and around the world (50 million pounds daily in the U.S. alone). The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the largest user of liquid hydrogen in the world. (See National Hydrogen Association Home Page listed below.)

Q. What is the history of hydrogen use and safety?

A. Hydrogen gas or “lamp gas” has been used for street lamps since the 1800s. There are currently over 700 miles of pipelines transporting hydrogen, and truck transport on America's highways is common among the many industries that use hydrogen, ranging from the petrochemical industry to the cosmetic industry.

Q. Can the cost of hydrogen as a fuel compete with fossil fuel extracts?

A. Yes, it appears to be possible. The chief reserve for hydrogen is water. Electrolysis can easily produce usable hydrogen. The expansion of infrastructure for hydrogen production, improved storage, transportation, and distribution is a significant barrier to cost competitiveness. Hydrogen can also be reformed from fossil fuels. (See next section on Other Alternative Fuels.)

US Hydrogen Association web site

American Hydrogen Association Home Page:

National Hydrogen Association Home Page:

International Association for Hydrogen Energy Home Page:

The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Letter

The Institute for Integrated Energy Systems

Other Alternative Fuels

Q. What is methanol?

A. Methanol is an alcohol fuel usually produced by reforming natural gas. It can be derived from other sources such as coal, oil, or biomass. As such, its use as a replacement fuel would reduce reliance on foreign sources of oil. Methanol has been made into an ether, MTBE, which has been blended with gasoline (mandated for use in certain parts of the country), to oxygenate the fuel and reduce emissions and boost octane. It can be used in fuel cells by reforming the methanol into hydrogen. Although this process does produce carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide byproducts, it reduces emissions compared to the combustion or reforming of gasoline.

Q. What other alternative fuels are there?

A. There is a tremendous increase in interest in other alternative fuels, particularly in synthetic fuels. Examples include ethanol, propane, natural gas, and synthetic fuels such as biodiesel and P-series fuel. The advantage of these fuels is the reduction or elimination of particulates, sulfur and nitrogen containing compounds, and carbon byproducts. (See DOE OTT link below.)

Q. Can these fuels be used in fuel cells or just in combustion?

A. These fuels can be burned in conventional ICE or used as a potential source of hydrogen in fuel cells.

Q. What is a fuel “reformer?”

A. A reformer extracts a compound or modifies it into a safer, more usable, or more desirable fuel. In this discussion we refer to a reformer as a device that extracts hydrogen from another alternative fuel for use in a fuel cell. In fuel cells reformer technology may be a very important first step in establishing fuel cell powered vehicles and stationary power generation. (See next question.)

Q. Is it more likely that other fuels such as methanol will be used in fuel cells instead of hydrogen?

A. Producing, storing, transporting, and distributing hydrogen safely and effectively will require an entirely new national and international infrastructure, which will take time and money to build. Public and industry acceptance will also take time. Fuels such as methanol, ethanol, and some synthetics can be more easily and cheaply adapted to our current infrastructure of gasoline transport and distribution. Therefore, a vehicle or stationary power plant could be powered by a fuel cell with a reformer using methanol, ethanol, natural gas or synthetic fuel fairly quickly. It is likely that at least some early fuel cell vehicles will use reformed methanol, gasoline, or other hydrogen source because of the requirement for fuel availability. Fleet fuel cell vehicles with their own access to stored hydrogen such as city buses, airport shuttles, and other public works vehicles are now the earliest pure hydrogen fueled vehicles.

US Department of Energy Office of Transportation Technologies Alternative Fuels Data Center:

Department of Energy Alternative Fuel Vehicle Buyer's Guide:

The Alternative Fuel Vehicle Directory:

BC Research, Inc., Centre for Alternative Transportation Fuels

The American Methanol Institute web site:

The Fuel Cell Industry

Q. Who are some of the entities involved in fuel cell research, design, and construction?

A. Fuel cells have received tremendous attention in the last few years, and the trend is increasing exponentially. Virtually any entity with interest in energy production, use, and resources is involved in fuel cell research, design, and practical application. This includes federal, state and local government agencies (environmental protection agencies, departments of air quality, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, departments of transportation, etc.); the transportation industry; utilities; the petrochemical industry; academicians and basic and applied scientists; health policy agencies; public interest groups; and manufacturers of any number of related products from cars, to batteries, to home generators, and almost any other energy related product. For a more detailed list of specific companies, agencies, industry groups, and other organizations please see the links throughout this post.

Q. What are some of the possible uses of fuel cells?

A. Fuel cells can be used for power generation for transportation, distributed home and business power and HVAC, and power generation for the power grid, to name a few. Small fuel cells can potentially be used for any electronic appliance currently served by battery power.

Q. How can fuel cells be used in automobiles and transportation?

A. Fuel cells have already been proven to effectively provide power for automobiles, buses, submarines and other watercraft, and have provided auxiliary power for Apollo missions, the Space Shuttle, and ships. With time and advancing technology is it likely that any transportation mode that can be powered by electricity could be powered by fuel cells.

Q. How can fuel cells be used in power generation and the utility industry?

A. Current technology allows for both centralized power generation for the local power grid as well as a distributed model with units for any size of home or business.

Q. How can fuel cells be used in the military?

A. The Department of Defense has worked closely with industry in fuel cell development. Naval applications have included auxiliary power for submarines, surface ships and ship yards. Developing quieter engines is attractive not only in submarines, but in tanks, trucks, and power generation for troop support. Military communications, global positioning, auxiliary power, transportation, and power for weapons are all potential uses for fuel cells.

Q. How can fuel cells be used in aerospace industries?

A. The Apollo Mission space capsules, lunar modules, and orbiters were partially powered by fuel cells. The current Space Shuttle missions receive auxiliary power from fuel cells as well. A side benefit of clean and quiet hydrogen PEM fuel cell power is the pure water produced as a byproduct, which is used by the astronauts for drinking. As metal hydride and nanotube technology improves, better hydrogen storage will allow more and more power generation from compressed air and hydrogen with a continuous supply of drinking water.

Q. How can fuel cells be used in the communications industry?

A. All communications technology requires power. Satellite reception and transmission, cell phones, radios, televisions, wireless internet devices can all be powered by either the power grid or by distributed model or self-contained fuel cell power sources.

Q. How can fuel cells be used in electronic appliances?

A. Fuel cells can be as small as the smallest battery, making a fuel cell a possible choice for powering all electronic appliances. Since the fuel cell itself doesn't deplete as a battery does, all that is required for long term power supply is a charge of hydrogen. It has been proposed that batteries as small as hearing aid batteries with a self-contained charge of hydrogen – similar to a mini cigarette lighter – could compete with current battery technology for all appliances.

Q. How does the fuel cell industry relate to the petrochemical industry?

A. Fuel cells are fueled by hydrogen. Much expertise resides in the petrochemical industry which has made, sold, stored, and distributed hydrogen and hydrogen products for over 150 years. Additionally, hydrogen is a fuel that could partially replace or compete with current fossil fuels for dominance in power generation throughout the world. It is natural then, that oil and gas companies, large and small would heavily invest in research and technology of fuels of all kinds and the business leadership to be gained by pioneering new technology.

The Future and the Finances of the Fuel Cell Industry

Q. How is the fuel cell industry currently being financed?

A. Financial support for advances in fuel cell technology has come from venture capital sources, public financial markets, private investment, industry support groups, environmental research funds, government energy and defense spending, academic research funds, and other sources. Given the broad reach of energy and environmental issues affected by fuel cell technology, there is practically no sector of public or private finance that has not been tapped for funding.

Q. Are there tax credits for clean energy that apply to fuel cell use?

A. Yes. Currently there are federal, state, and local tax credits available to both businesses and private citizens for clean power generation including, but not limited to automobiles, buses, distributed power generation and other potential fuel cell uses. Tax credits vary significantly based on geography and state and local laws.

Q. Are there government subsidies for fuel cell development and use?

A. Yes. The United States, Canada, and the members of the European Union have all publicly acknowledged support of development of fuel cell research and technology. The history of Ballard Power includes early funding from the Canadian military.

Q. What are some of the barriers to acceptance of fuel cell technology?

A. Several industry and proprietary groups have identified the following barriers to fuel cell success:
1. Improvement in fuel cell cost and competitiveness with current energy sources
2. Proven long term reliability
3. Public education and development of public trust in technology
4. Infrastructure build out for hydrogen (and other alternative fuel) production, storage, transportation and distribution
5. Political support for technology and research
6. Overcoming financial and political power of affected entrenched energy industry players

US Department of Defense web site:

US Department of Energy Office of Transportation Technologies Fuel Cell web site:

US Fuel Cell Council web site:

World Fuel Cell Council Home Page:

Fuel Cell Commercialization Group web site:

State Financial Incentives Table (financial incentives for alternative fuels and power use with searchable database):

Ballard Power web site:

Ballard Power Corporate and Financial Strength

Q. Where can I find Ballard Power's corporate reports and financial statements?

Note: Since BLDP is a Canadian company, always check to see if financials are being reported in Canadian dollars (CAN) or US dollars.

A. Start here at TMF Quotes and Data for a summary financial statement, charts, snapshot, estimates, and news:

For detailed 10-K and 10-Q reports log on to the free SEDAR filings (for Canadian companies):
and select the necessary public documents, or go to the Ballard Power Home Page: for investor information, corporate information, proprietary FAQ or to directly contact Ballard Power.

Q. Where can I find Ballard Power's most recent annual report? (Click on the following link.)

Q. Who are Ballard Power's corporate partners and strategic alliances?

A. A short list of strategic partners would include:
1. DaimlerChrysler
2. Ford Motor Company
3. Ecostar Electric Drive Systems
4. Xcellsis Fuel Cell Engines
Stationary Power Market:
1. GPU International (New Jersey based world leader in advanced power technology)
2. Ebara (Japanese world leader in zero-emissions technology)
3. Alstom (French world leader in power generation and transmission)
4. Coleman (world leader in small portable power generators)

For a direct link to more about these alliances try the following web sites:

Ballard Power Competition

Q. What industries compete with Ballard Power?

A. In the automotive category the chief competition comes from major auto manufacturers General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Opel (a GM company), Volkswagen, and Nissan. Every auto manufacturer is looking to a lesser or greater degree into fuel cell technology and alliances. Lesser competition may come from other primary fuel cell manufacturers and design companies, some of which are listed below.

In the stationary power generation market competitors include FuelCell Energy, Inc. (United Technologies), Plug Power (General Electric), Avista Labs, H Power Corporation, ZeTek Power, Northwest Power Systems, IDACORP, and a host of smaller fuel cell manufacturers and niche companies with special expertise in certain aspects of fuel cell design, development and application. Virtually every utility and power company is involved in some aspect of fuel cell stationary power development.

FuelCell Energy, Inc. Home Page:

Energy Partners, L.C. Home Page:

Avista Labs Home Page (a utility company with fuel cell division for power generation):

H Power Corporation Home Page (small appliance and back-up generating PEM systems supplier):

BCS Technology, Inc. Home Page (specializes in water management technology of PEM cells):

Northwest Power Systems Home Page (fuel reformer or processor and PEM cell manufacturer):

Bonneville Power Administration web site:

Idacorp (Idaho Power, a division of IDACORP)

ZeTek Power Home Page (leading European producer of fuel cells for marine, vehicle, and static power generation):

Opel Germany web site for Opel Zafira mini-van:
Plug Power web site

Companies/Agencies with synergies to Ballard Power

Q. What related industries, companies, or agencies may have synergies with Ballard Power?

A. Industries, companies, or agencies whose research, products, or activities would complement Ballard Power include the hydrogen production, storage, transportation, monitoring and measurement industries, petrochemical industries, polymer membrane technology, nanotechnology, and related fields. Additionally strong synergy comes from environmental groups; federal, state, and local air quality agencies; and academic, educational, and public advocacy groups. Strong support from all sectors will be necessary for the maximal growth of Ballard Power and the growth of the sales of its products. Additional cooperation should include the expertise of specialists in other clean renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, wind, tide and other related power technologies.

Electro-Chem-Technic Home Page (produces and sells educational fuel cells and materials):

also, Avista Labs sells a small fuel cell kit for educational purposes:

American Physical Society 2000 Annual Meeting (abstract on PEM fuel cell session):

ElectroChem, Inc. Home Page (research, design, and production of PEM cells):

AstroPower Home Page (Solar PV power systems for home and business):

The Dais Corporation Home Page (Materials, Design, and Fuel Cell production company):

US Department of Energy Fuel Cell web site:

Calstart web site:
California Air Resources Board (CARB)

California Fuel Cell Partnership
The partnership, a public-private venture, includes five automakers (DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, Nissan); energy providers (ARCO, Shell, and Texaco); one fuel cell company (Ballard Power Systems); and government agencies (the California Air Resources Board, the California Energy Commission, and the U.S. Department of Energy).

SAE convention in Detroit 3-6-2000 (papers on fuel cell powered transportation)

Speaker's Board – Fuel Cells for the 21st Century

SaloonGal's personal web site on Ballard Power

Nanotechnology web site:

Energy Conversion Devices Home Page (resource on hydrogen storage technology)

Zero Pollution Motors, Inc. web site:

Frauenhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems “Self Sufficient Solar House 2000”:

Hannover Hydrogen Fair 2000

DCH Technology web site

Editorial Comment

Applying the RB Criteria to BLDP:

Caneriefool: (full RB work-up) (RB Criterion #6)

Other comment:

From ActingFoolshly, BLDP Board Post #3665

From Northman:
Interesting links for newbies:

Summary Statement

It has been said that a fuel cell is much like a battery in that it produces electricity. Only unlike a battery the production of electricity does not deplete contents of the fuel cell as long as the fuels (hydrogen and oxygen) are supplied. It could also be said that the whole earth is a battery and that our fossil fuels are like the contents of the battery. We have used carbon-based "fossil fuels," for our primary energy supply since recorded time. The problem with the "earth battery" is that it takes hundreds of millions of years to recharge the battery; i.e., replace the fossil fuels. Hence, the term "non-renewable energy."

Using hydrocarbons as the primary source of energy, either by combustion or as a source of hydrogen for fuel cells can only be a short-term solution to the earth's energy needs. Continued use further depletes the "battery" of earth's fossil fuels. It has been estimated that the use of earth's current fossil fuel reserves at present consumption and growth rates can only continue for about 40 years at the outside, and 25 years if population growth and consumption of energy expand. Finding continuously renewable energy sources to extract hydrogen as the primary fuel source, and solving the storage and distribution problem will launch us into the hydrogen age and create a completely new paradigm of energy use on this planet. Every human being on the planet uses energy for health, warmth, communications, travel, and more. It could easily be argued that there is no broader question or greater scope of concern in the next generation than the solution to earth's energy needs.

Imagine a future in which PV (photo voltaic) cells on your roof supply energy to your home during peak use; extract and store hydrogen from water in off peak hours (during the day when the house is empty and the sun energy is highest) for use as a fuel in your PEM fuel cell car, and for use in your back-up PEM fuel cell electrical generator, and to feed energy back into the power grid. Imagine all the hydro-electric power wasted in transmission lines and in times of off-peak power use being directed at hydrogen production. Without building any more nuclear generating stations, if we simply ran the existing ones at peak efficiency using off-peak energy to extract and store hydrogen, we could have enough stored energy for all our needs. Hydrogen is, in fact, the best "battery." It's what the sun uses. All we would be doing is re-using it. The technology to do this already exists.

The barriers to success are not trivial. Hydrogen collection, distribution, and safety are tough problems, but not insurmountable. What are needed to be successful are the political will of nations and industry, education and acceptance by consumers, and the proven cost effectiveness of the technology. As fuel cell costs decrease, and hydrogen storage technology improves we will see people choosing hydrogen over combustion for economic as well as environmental reasons. Given the history of hydrogen use in the Hindenburg, it is also important to be reminded that hydrogen is no more dangerous than gasoline, kerosene, propane, or natural gas when handled properly.

Leaders of many industries in the energy sector have hailed hydrogen technology as the energy source of the future. The biggest hurdle will be the inertia surrounding the politics of energy and transportation on a global scale. The question is no longer "if," but "when" and "how" we will evolve into a hydrogen society.
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