The alternative energy industry has had a tumultuous past when it comes to investments. In previous years, the industry was fraught with crippling uncertainty as investors struggled to reconcile the viability of green technologies with their massive cost. It was not until climate change and other environmental concerns became prominent issues of contention that the industry began attracting noticeable interest as well as support from many of the world’s governments. However, the uncertainties that plagued the industry persisted and still keep alternative energy in a state of purgatory while the companies responsible for its technologies struggle for progress.
Ballard Power, one of the leading manufacturers of hydrogen fuel cells, is quite familiar with the problems facing the alternative energy industry. A decade ago, shares in the company sold for more than $100. Today, they are worth $1.50 a piece. The company has reported steady losses each quarter, yet its revenues have been growing exponentially recently. Ballard characterizes this happening as a lingering skepticism surrounding fuel cell technology.
Fuel cells are highly expensive. The cost of production overshadows the fuel efficiency of any fuel cell model Ballard has created, a fact that the company has been attempting to remedy for years. Ballard makes use of a proton exchange membrane (PEM) that replaces the expensive platinum catalysts found in most fuel cells. This reduces the cost of each unit significantly without taking away from its performance. It may not be enough, however, as few people even know that such technologies exist.
Among consumers, hydrogen is still a fairy tale. While more support is being thrown behind the fuel, few consumers are taking notice, instead focusing on much more publicized fuels like solar and wind energy. Hydrogen, however, is likely to take the limelight outside of the U.S. as more nations adopt the fuel in an attempt to break away from oil. As more nations turn to hydrogen, Ballard, and other fuel cell companies, may be on the brink of a financial revolution.