RIP Geoffrey Ballard, Fuel Cell Pioneer
In 1993 Ballard Power Systems drove a bus through the streets of Vancouver, powered by hydrogen in the first public demonstration of a proton-exchange membrane fuel cell. Ballard and his company were Canadian icons of technology, which unfortunately was always just around the corner and just too expensive for prime time.
However, as Tom Koppel put it in his book on Ballard, they "kick-started and expedited the movement, which initially had very little money."They showed the fuel cell could be improved, made more compact and powerful, at relatively little cost, and that the hydrogen economy was a long-term concept for governments to aspire to."
According to the New York Times, Dr. Ballard remained stalwart in his belief in the superiority of hydrogen over petroleum-based fuels. He argued that governments would have to adopt the new technology and make "experimental fleets" of vehicles before economy of scale would ever make it affordable for consumers.