From Library Journal
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.AEric C. Shoaf, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence, RI
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
" 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. " -- Fred Brock, New York Times, February 4, 2000
"Ballard...devised a fuel cell that....could turn...Ballard Power Systems into the Intel of the automotive industry in the coming century -- providing the crucial technology that powers the automotive future....[It is] exciting--a story of dreams that come true--but tinged with sadness since the person who conjured up the dreams was on the sidelines when they were realized. Tom Koppel does an excellent job...tracing the history of Ballard Power and detailing the scientific search that let it build what so many people thought was impossible: an alternative to the internal combustion engine that runs on hydrogen....Well-researched, fair-minded...[a] stirring tribute...to the creative spirit." -- Harvey Schachter, Globe & Mail, Toronto
"Koppel chronicles how Ballard Power System's vision transformed fuel cells 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 really 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." -- Drew Hasselback, Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Letter, Rhinecliff, NY
"Powering the Future" tells the technical and human story of how the Ballard fuel cell was born, thanks to the leadership of an idealistic former geologist, Geoffrey Ballard....[He] and his handful of engineers and chemists began with little knowledge of fuel cells. 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....What the Ballard team brought to the story was engineering and passion. Using bits of plastic and sheets of graphite...they steadily increased the power output [and] cut costs by reducing the amount of...platinum needed....They showed off their work at a conference in Arizona, 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 zero-emission vehicles." -- The Economist, January 15, 2000
Amazon.com's Editor for Business & Investing, Harry C. Edwards, has selected Powering the Future as one of the ten best business books of 1999. -- An Amazon.com Editor's Pick