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Powering the Future: The Ballard Fuel Cell and the Race to Change the World Hardcover – September 29, 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (September 29, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471644218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471644217
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,784,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating book for people who are interested in technology as well as in enviroment. It is easy to read and to understand. In a lively way it tells us the story (always a "mystery") how a group of determined people are able to achive a technological break through and financial success. More than that: It gives us an idea how a technology, the fuell cell, is working and the way in which this technology will change our living in the cities within the comming decades: Cars moving around without pollution and without noise! It probably will be great funn.
It was a pleasure reading this book. It actually enlarged my horizon.
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Format: Hardcover
With great timing, the Author has delivered great insights into what possibly shall become one of THE most impressive developments of our day: making the fuel cell price-competitive with the oil-burning internal combustion engine. Having his easy-reading, often humorous, always trustworthy accounts of a technical evolution towards the latest Mark 900 Ballard PEM fuel cell engine is great fun. I highly recommend this Book to all.
I only wish that there were similar books too, perhaps from this or from other authors, about Ballard's rivals like the FuelCell Energy MCFC fuel cell, the passive DMFC from DCH Technology and Manhattan Scientifics, the SOFC from Global Thermoelectric, the United Technologies PAFC unit from IFC, and those from Plug Power, Avista Corporation, Anuvu, Astris Energi, and a growing list of others. Perhaps the Author will do us the favor of a new Book, one that surveys rapid growth and notable accomplishments as we now move ahead, towards a Hydrogen Economy? Of course the topic of a Hydrogen Economy is a whole new topic unto itself, and one where Mr. Ballard (and his General Hydrogen Corp.) may soon again figure prominently.
I suspect this great book will fire your interest in the fuel cell, as it certainly has done for me. Dr. Rob Wilder, rob@pacificwhale.org
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Founder Geoff Ballard lived by the words "Dare to be in a hurry to change things for the better." Powering the Future is a story about Geoff Ballard and a small team of people that stuck together and pioneered PEM fuel cell technology. Ballard, the company, does not endorse the book because of the bad blood that existed between the new leadership and the old guard. It's hard to say who was right but the survival of the fuel cell required partnering with companies like DaimlerChrysler and Ford Motor Company. It also required a lot of PR talent that the the founder did not have. The book has an excellent overview of how a fuel cell works. Once you read it you will learn how fuel cells work and how the hydrogen economy can one day transform the world. Ballard, the company, continues to have awesome potential and a lot of talented people working there. I know because I work there too.
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Format: Hardcover
The Hydrogen revolution has started with the unexpected emergence and success of fuel cell maker Ballard Power Systems. This is a very exciting industry. We are looking towards a future of abundant clean energy. Greenland is racing to become the first ever hydrogen economy, extricating itself from the reliance on foreign oil, and positioning itself as a possible future exporter of hydrogen. Oil companies are scrambling to redefine themselves as "energy companies." Innovative companies such as Energy Conversion Devices have come up with technologies allowing safe hydrogen storage.
I suggest this book for anyone interested in environment and the future of energy.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a good book about Ballard Fuel Cell Company. It tells the story about taking the fuel-cell technology for electricity production from an oddity used in space to mass-market commercialization. The process is still going on so the book cannot conclude that Ballard has reached their goal, but the book does a good job explaining how Ballard reached their current state.
From a technical point of view one can argue that the author focuses too much on fuel cell development and too little on the necessary hydrogen delivery infrastructure, which is required to operate the fuel cells.
The book is also a good study in growing a start-up company. It shows how the founding entrepreneur pushes the idea forward until the company reaches a size where people with other qualities are needed to run the company. It shows how a company with hardly any products on the market can retain the public interest by carefully manage the information flow. Finally the book shows that it is possible for a relative small company to start development relationships with big multinational companies and still retain most of their independence.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a great case study in management and innovation. It shows once again that a small group of dedicated individuals can compete successfully against much larger competitors.
Fuel cells have long been successful in space craft. Soon you will be able to use them in your vehicles and buildings. Utility power plants typically discard about 60% of the heat energy from fuel. A fuel cell in your home would provide electricity efficiently. Instead of discarding the heat, you could use the fuel cell to heat your water everyday and provide some winter space heating.
A fuel cell in your vehicle will increase fuel efficiency and eliminate the need for oil changes.
About 40 cubic miles of crude oil remain available for more than six billion people, and we are consuming more than one cubic mile each year. By helping to reduce fuel consumption, fuel cells will help us to delay and reduce the severity of the coming shortages of fossil fuels.
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