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Powering the Future: The Ballard Fuel Cell and the Race to Change the Worldby Tom Koppel
Synopses & Reviews
"A great story about how a tiny Canadian company-for the first few years little more than 'three guys and a prayer'-brought such a revolutionary and beneficial technology to the world." The Ballard fuel cell holds nothing less than the promise of clean, quiet power for the new millennium. Fuel cells could, one day soon, replace the internal combustion engine and solve some of the world's worst air pollution problems. Powering the Future is the story of Ballard Power Systems, a small company at the forefront of this revolutionary technology, and on the brink of changing the way the world thinks about power. Fuel cells work by mixing hydrogen with oxygen from the air to produce electricity; the only by-product is water so clean you can drink it. The technology itself has been around for over 150 years, but-except for exotic applications such as space flight-remained obscure because of its expense. Powering the Future tells the intriguing story of how Geoffrey Ballard and a handful of colleagues brought this neglected technology to the world, on gritty determination and a shoestring budget. From their humble beginnings in their make-shift lab in an old Arizona motel, and on to the formation of Ballard Power Systems in British Columbia, this small company drastically improved and commercialized the fuel cell. They made it smaller, cheaper, and vastly more powerful over an astonishingly short time, actually melting down cables as they realized a fifty-fold increase in power output. Beyond the technical achievements, Ballard's story is also an amazing business success. Achieving a delicate balance between fiscal caution and technological daring, they brought fuel cells out of the lab and into the mainstream of business. Today, Ballard Power Systems is the acknowledged world leader in the fuel-cell race, and a runaway stock market success, its share price surging more than ten-fold in just three years. Powering the Future not only chronicles the company's impressive rise against stiff odds and intense competition; it also teaches valuable lessons about vision and inspiration, creating a culture of loyalty and dedication, attracting and keeping talented people, and marketing and selling an underdog technology to the biggest corporate giants. When Ballard decided to go for broke and enter the huge markets of transportation and stationary power, they took on some of the most formidable adversaries in the corporate world-car manufacturers and oil companies. You'll learn how the new generation of management excelled at not only improving the technology, but also marketing it, ultimately forging impressive alliances with some of the biggest players in the auto world. Powering the Future tells how it all happened through the unlikely mix of a driven visionary; a small, agile company; a culture of teamwork and dedication; government funding at the right time; the legislative urgency for cleaner power; and smart management. Powering the Future is the entertaining and inspirational account of how a tiny high-tech research company grew, and became poised to literally change the way we live.
Book News Annotation:
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)
Powering the Future tells the intriguing story of a tiny high-tech research company that developed one of the few truly revolutionary and transforming technologies of our era. Today, Ballard Power Systems is the world leader in fuel cell technology — a non-polluting energy source that could one day replace the internal combustion engine and power the cars of the future.
Geoffrey Ballard and a handful of colleagues — at the outset little more than "three guys and a prayer" — brought this neglected technology to the world. On gritty determination and a shoestring budget, they took fuel cells out of the lab and into the mainstream of business. They made the fuel cell smaller, cheaper, and vastly more powerful over an astonishingly short time — actually melting down cables as they realized a fifty-fold increase in power output.
Powering the Future not only chronicles the company's impressive rise against stiff odds and intense competition; it also teaches valuable lessons about vision and inspiration, creating a culture of loyalty and dedication, attracting and keeping talented people, and marketing and selling an underdog technology to the biggest players in the auto world. Powering the Future is the entertaining and inspirational account of how a tiny high-tech research company grew, and became poised to literally change the way we live.
Advance 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
Includes bibliographical references (p. -271) and index.
About the Author
Tom Koppel is an award-winning freelance writer. He has contributed feature articles on business, science, history, and travel to national magazines in Canada and the U.S. for nearly twenty years. He has been following the story of the Ballard fuel cell for over ten years, and first wrote about it for the Financial Post Magazine and Reader's Digest. He lives on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. Powering the Future is his second book.
Table of Contents
Engine of the Future.
A Notable Surface of Action.
An Opportunity for Canada.
Small is Beautiful.
Three Guys and a Prayer.
Nugget of Gold.
Going for Broke.
On the Road.
Venturesome but Conservative.
Company with a Difference.
The Starting Pistol Has Been Fired.
The Intel of the Auto Industry.
Dare to be Different.
What Our Readers Are Saying
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