Koppel chronicles how Ballard Power System's vision transformed fuel
from a utopian, pollution-free power source to a feasible, marketable
technology....Scientific discovery was only part of the challenge. Along
the way, [founder Geoffrey] Ballard and his engineers had to cajole
government agencies for grants, keep creditors at bay, and line up private
sector investors. Yet when it became apparent that the...technology
might work, the company had to [change] from a tiny enclave of dreamy
engineers into a hard-boiled firm capable of mass producing and mass
marketing thousands of fuel cells. This...called for a new voice....[New
CEO] Firoz Rasul...brought Ballard into the financial big leagues. The big
breakthrough came when he brought in huge investments from Daimler
Benz...and Ford....Stockbrokers now rave that Ballard has the potential to
become the Intel of the auto business. This transformation resulted in the
conflicts that makes 'Powering the Future' a very interesting book.
The Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Letter
Powering the Future tells the technical and human story of how the
Ballard cell was born, thanks to the leadership of an idealistic former
geologist, Geoffrey Ballard....The first versions had been developed by
General Electric for moonshots. But the large American company had lost
interest and the patents had largely expired. Other forms of fuel cell
were then thought to be more promising. What the Ballard team brought to
the story was engineering and passion. Using bits of plastic and sheets of
graphite to make their fuel-cell stacks, they steadily increased the power
output [and] cut costs....They showed off their work at a conference...and
the American [government] suddenly woke up to the fact that [it] had been
backing the wrong sort of fuel cell. The Ballard...cell made the electric
motor car a real possibility, just as the tide of green protests against
car smog was causing California to compel car makers to produce
The New York Times
Ballard's rise from its humble beginnings in a makeshift lab in Arizona in the 1970's to its pivotal position today-DaimlerChrysler and Ford both hold stakes in it-makes compelling reading. And Mr. Koppel explains the technology in a way that the average reader can understand.
The fuel cell, an electrochemical device powered by hydrogen fuel and oxygen, might become the gasoline-substitute scientists have been searching for. (It generates electricity to drive the car's wheels silently.) In this new book, Canadian financial journalist Koppel details one company's contribution to development of the fuel cell for use in automobiles. Less an inside account than a technical report, the book describes the crucial years of research and development when a small staff with a small budget produced impressive results. But this report is flawed by its lack of cohesion, an over-reliance on technical jargon, and the absence of a real story. (It also lacks an index.) Much like Joe Sherman's Charging Ahead (LJ 7/98), this book prepares us for a world that is still a long way off. Some of the corporate intrigue detailed here is interesting, and the technically advanced may find this book compelling. But lay readers might want to wait for a useful electric car to actually get here before reading about it.--Eric C. Shoaf, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence, RI Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Fuel cells work by mixing hydrogen with oxygen from the air to produce electricity. The technology itself has been available for 150 years, but has remained obscure because of its expense. Koppel, a freelance writer who has followed the story of the Ballard fuel cell for 10 years, offers an account of Ballard Power Systems, a small company at the forefront of this technology. He outlines the company's technical achievements, chronicles the company's rise against competition, and examines lessons in marketing and management. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
Praise for Powering the Future:
"One day in the future – and sooner than you may think! – fuel-cell power will be commonplace and people will wonder how it all came to be. Koppel's book describes the important role Ballard Power Systems is playing in this revolutionary technology." —Dennis Simanaitis, Engineering Editor, Road & Track magazine
"The Ballard fuel cell is a powerful example of a Canadian enterprise that could transform the world of energy and help save the environment. It's a story that needs to be told." — David Crane, Economics Editor, The Toronto Star
"The Ballard fuel cell holds great promise as an energy source for the ecological millennium. It's a fascinating and inspiring story." — Dr. David Suzuki, Biologist, Author, and Host
What People are saying about this
From the Publisher
"...a great yarn of adventure, discovery and ambition. Koppel's account covers all the bases, from personal to technological, presented with a veteran...journalist's even-handed perspective. With most of the world's automakers now looking closely at fuel-cell technology, the great tale has a lot of relevance to what we may see on our roads within the next decade or two."
— John Terauds, Toronto Star
"This book tells the fascinating story of the development of the Ballard fuel cell and how a small Canadian company grew to world-class stature and went on to form partnerships with some of the largest companies in the world.... This book will appeal to a wide audience,...is entertaining and generally nontechnical.... I strongly recommend it."
— Timothy E. Lipman, American Scientist
"Ballard's rise from its humble beginnings in a makeshift lab in Arizona in the 1970s to its pivotal position today— DaimlerChrysler and Ford both hold stakes in it— makes compelling reading. And Mr. Koppel explains the technology in a way that the average reader can understand."
— Fred Brock, New York Times