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Fuel Cell-ebration!

Marking 40th year with first FCEV fleet in British Columbia.

After four decades of developing fuel cell technology, Ballard Power Systems finally has a fleet of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) in service.

“We’ve been working towards this for many years, now everything that we’ve been working for, has become a reality,” says Nicholas Pocard, Director of Marketing, Ballard Power Systems. “It’s a very big milestone, everyone was so excited about it.”

This summer, six Toyota Mirai FCEVs were purchased by Ballard employees, making this the first FCEV fleet in British Columbia. “These are owned by the employees, who use them to commute to work,” explains Pocard. “We are committed at Ballard to reduce the overall carbon footprint on commuting.”

Employees from the management team had the chance to bid on the six cars, and Pocard says that within three minutes, they were sold out. “It was a very easy audience to convince.”

More pleasant commute

Ballard is located in Vancouver, and highway traffic is very congested. “The Mirai drivers are very happy with their cars as they’re quiet and behave nicely on the road,” says Pocard. “Since the Mirai is zero emission, if they’re stuck in a traffic jam, all that comes out of the car is water. It makes their commute much more pleasant.”

There is a hydrogen fuel cell station network being developed in British Columbia, in the Lower Mainland. Two of the stations are in Greater Vancouver. “Ballard is between two of those stations, so it’s easy to refuel,” says Pocard. There are plans to have six refuelling stations in total in British Columbia.

The Mirai FCEV delivers close to a 500 kilometre range, which is much greater than a conventional electric vehicle. “You can fill up the car in about five minutes,” explains Pocard. “It’s just like a regular car.”

Other advantages of the Mirai FCEV include the quiet ride, with less vibration and more comfort. “Because it’s an electric vehicle, it’s much more responsive,” says Pocard. “When you accelerate, the car moves very fast. You don’t have a mechanical transmission. And since there’s no big electric battery, it’s lighter.”

Good timing

Ballard and Toyota have been in talks for some time. “We couldn’t think of a more appropriate partner for B.C.’s first fleet of FCEVs than the team at Fuel Cell-ebration! Ballard Systems,” says Mitchell Foreman, Director of Advanced Technology at Toyota Canada. “We are seeing significant interest from large corporations, governments and smaller organizations in B.C. and Quebec. Several companies in other provinces have also indicated an interest in purchasing FCEVs once hydrogen infrastructure is built in other parts of Canada.”

The Mirai is available for purchase by fleet operators at 12 authorized Mirai dealerships in the Vancouver area, and will soon be available to purchase from select Toyota dealers in Quebec City.

“It was good timing for us when Toyota decided to introduce the Mirai in Vancouver,” says Pocard. “For us, it’s a milestone, 40 years of research and development to commercialization of fuel cell technology. Now we have a commercial vehicle that you can buy from a dealership, and drive like a regular car.”

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