Vancouver-based Ballard Inks Fuel-cell Deal with China

Lost Lake Bus

By Maura Forrest

October 1, 2015

A Vancouver-based fuel-cell company has signed an agreement to build fuel-cell engines for trams in China with a Chinese railway manufacturer.

Ballard Power Systems and CRRC Sifang announced the $6-million deal on Monday. Ballard has agreed to deliver 10 fuel-cell modules to the rolling stock manufacturer in 2016, which will each deliver 200 kilowatts of net power.

In turn, CRRC Sifang is expected to deploy eight fuel cell-powered trams in 2017 in the Chinese city of Foshan, whose current population is over seven million.

“We are pleased with the strong relationship we are developing with CRRC Sifang, a company with a rich history of innovation in Chinese rail transit, to pursue the China market opportunity for fuel cell-powered trams,” said Ballard president and CEO Randy MacEwen in a news release.

CRRC Sifang was established in 1900, and currently produces up to 200 electric multiple-unit trains, 1,000 mass transit vehicles, and 300 passenger cars per year.

The announcement comes just days after the two companies signed a $17-million deal that will see Ballard provide modules for 300 fuel cell-powered buses to be deployed in the cities of Foshan and Yunfu.

“This deal shows that B.C. is ready to meet China’s rapidly growing clean energy needs and is a world leader in fuel cell technology with the necessary talent and skills to deliver in the global marketplace,” said Teresa Wat, B.C.’s minister of international trade, in a news release.

Ballard also inked a $10-million deal in June to provide modules for use in 33 fuel cell-powered buses in the Chinese cities of Yunfu and Rugao.

Ballard is also the company behind an ill-fated foray into fuel-cell power in Whistler, B.C. Before the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Whistler accepted 20 fuel cell-powered buses to showcase the clean technology. But the buses cost three times as much to fuel and maintain as diesel-powered buses, and were plagued by a reputation for breaking down in cold weather.

In March 2014, the buses were scrapped and replaced by conventional diesel models.

But Ballard claims its newest modules are more efficient and durable, and that the cost of its modules has declined by 65 per cent over the last six years.