DETROIT - Ballard Power Systems expects to be mass producing a new generation of compact, powerful automotive fuel cells as early as 2004 at a cost comparable to today's gasoline engines.
The Burnaby, British Columbia, development company is just waiting for its automaker customers to give it the green light.
Fuel cells make electricity by splitting the electrons and protons in hydrogen and recombining them with oxygen.
Ballard unveiled its Mark 900 fuel cell module stack Jan. 9 at the Detroit auto show.
With a production cost of about $50 per kilowatt, the 75-kilowatt Mark 900 will cost about $3,750.
'That's about as much as an internal-combustion engine in North America costs,' said Paul Lancaster, Ballard vice president of corporate development.
The module is about half the size of Ballard's current Mark 700 module, introduced in 1995, and weighs about 30 percent less.
Ballard officials would not say which automakers would use the Mark 900 first or when.
Lancaster said the company expects to have a high-volume production plant for the Mark 900 as early as 2004 with an annual capacity of 250,000 to 300,000 modules.