BURNABY, B.C. - Ford Motor Company and Daimler AG have announced that they are buying the automotive fuel cell component of Ballard Power Systems of British Columbia, according to Web Site, http://autos.canada.com/news/story.html?id=1547e3a6-6ce1-4c83-9f16-089ed30be72c.

The two automotive manufacturers will form a new company and continue to develop the fuel cell for use in cars and trucks. Ballard will instead concentrate on commercial applications for the fuel cell technology.

The new company, named Automotive Fuel Cell Co-operation, will be staffed by 150 former Ballard research and technology development employees (20 per cent of the Ballard work force). The new hires will not have to move far as the new company will still be located at Ballard's Burnaby location.

The majority shareholder in the new alliance will be Daimler, at 50.1 per cent, followed by Ford, at 30 per cent. The remaining 19.9 per cent will be held by Ballard.

"Investment in the fuel cell is investment in our future," says Herbert Kohler, vice-president with responsibility for advanced vehicle and powertrain engineering and chief environmental officer of the Daimler Group. "The foundation of the Automotive Fuel Cell Co-operation is an important step into the future because in the long term, the fuel cell is the most viable proposition for sustainable and zero-emission mobility combined with a sparing use of resources."

Daimler introduced its first fuel cell vehicle in 1994. The company boasts it has the largest fleet in the world, with over 100 vehicles, with a total of 3.7 million kilometres on them.

Ford has a fleet of 30 experimental hydrogen-powered Ford focus cars on the road as part of real-world testing. Collectively, the fleet has accumulated almost a million kilometres since 2005.

"The fuel cell remains one of the most viable solutions to develop a sustainable, zero-emissions vehicle," said Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, Ford vice-president for research and advanced engineering.

This summer Ford was touring the country with a Ford Edge HySeries, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with an on-board hydrogen fuel cell generator. The company currently offers only one gasoline-electric hybrid for sale, the Ford Escape.

Daimler expects fuel cell vehicles to reach maturity for large-scale production between 2012 and 2015 with a limited series of B-Class cars set to be produced as early as 2010.