Dearborn, Michigan, Aug. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Ballard Power Systems Inc. and Ford Motor Co. said they will jointly build hydrogen-powered engine and generator systems designed to help electric utilities supplement power during times of high demand.
The system will use a modified 6.8-liter Ford engine that burns hydrogen, the companies said at a press conference in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford and Ballard already are working together to develop low-pollution fuel cells for cars and trucks because of tougher environmental rules.
The hydrogen generators would give the companies a new customer base while they work on technology for autos. Ballard, a Canadian maker of fuel cells that isn't expected to be profitable for several years, introduced a similar natural-gas-powered generator last month to provide back-up power. ``After Ballard's announcement a few weeks ago on its natural- gas generator, you could surmise this was coming,'' said Jarett Carson, an RBC Capital Markets analyst in Minneapolis who rates Ballard a speculative ``outperform'' and doesn't own its shares. ``This is the natural extension.''
Ballard Power fell C$1.14, or 5.6 percent, to C$19.10 at 3:59 p.m. on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and No. 2 automaker Ford rose 12 cents $12.28 at 4:02 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Ballard has declined about 60 percent this year.
Ballard bought back two fuel-cell ventures, Xcellsis GmbH and Ecostar Electric Drive Systems LLC, from Ford and DaimlerChrysler AG last year. Ford owns about 20 percent of Ballard, while DaimlerChrysler owns 24 percent. ``This will give them a product line to make their business model healthier,'' said William Clay Ford Jr., Ford's chairman and chief executive officer, to reporters after a speech in Traverse City, Michigan. `Bridging' Systems
Ballard last month named Dennis Campbell as president and chief operating officer, part of a plan for Campbell to become chief executive officer. The shares have fallen from C$52.90 on April 1. ``We think this could be a very important bridging technology,'' said Ross Witschonke, vice president of Ford Power Products, in an interview. Hydrogen-burning internal-combustion engines may find widespread uses in automotive applications, depending on how fast hydrogen becomes widely available to motorists, he said.
Larger rival General Motors Corp. last month said it plans to hire as many as 100 more scientists and engineers in upstate New York as the world's biggest automaker prepares to build hundreds of thousands of fuel-cell vehicles a year by 2010.
General Motors and Toyota Motor Corp. have developed their own fuel-cell technology, while Ford and DaimlerChrysler are working with Ballard Power.