Mercedes-Benz opens fuel cell stack assembly plant in Burnaby, BC

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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With 77-percent of the world's fuel cell research and development expenditure taking place in British Columbia, it came as no surprise that Mercedes-Benz would build the world's first fuel cell stack assembly plant on the West Coast.

"We applaud the province's multi-faceted, forward-thinking approach that has encouraged the concentration of many brilliant minds focused on research and development in this region," said Mercedes-Benz Canada president and CEO, Tim A. Reuss. "There is no better place to open the world's first facility dedicated to the production and production technology development of fuel cell stacks."

Burnaby was chosen for practical reasons: the automaker was able to move into 3,300 square metres of the Ballard Power plant before investing $53 million in the state-of-the-art facility.

Ballard and Mercedes-Benz, together with Ford Motor Company, are partnered in the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation (AFCC) to develop and produce fuel cell stacks, with ownership divided 50.1-percent to Mercedes parent company, Daimler, 30-percent to Ford, and 19.9-percent to Ballard.

In her opening remarks Mercedes-Benz Canada director of communications, JoAnne Caza stated that the choice to house the new assembly plant within the Ballard facility is significant for another reason, as it was 10 years ago that the first viable fuel cell stack for automotive use was developed at the Ballard facility.

The fuel cell stack is currently being used in Mercedes-Benz' B-Class F-CELL compact model, as well as the Citaro FuelCell Hybrid city bus, while the plant's greater capacity is expected to power additional models within the Mercedes-Benz lineup.

Fuel cell technology is just one of many energy alternatives expected to be used by future vehicles, with Mercedes-Benz at the forefront of development. Mercedes-Benz has long been a proponent of clean-diesel technology too, while its current lineup of production vehicles includes hybrid-electric vehicles and various technologies to reduce fuel consumption and emissions for its more conventional gasoline-powered cars and SUVs. Additionally, parent company Daimler's Smart brand builds an all-electric city car.

The greatest challenge to the implementation of fuel cell technologies en masse is the creation of a hydrogen-refueling infrastructure, although with the global market for fuel cell energy technology expected to be valued at more than $8.5 billion by 2016 there will likely be necessary monies invested to overcome the hurdle.

More immediately, the new Mercedes-Benz fuel cell stack production facility is responsible for 50 new high-tech jobs with additional employment expected as full-scale production of the compact next-generation fuel-cell stacks begins in 2013.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Mercedes-Benz, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen,

Organizations: Mercedes-Benz

Geographic location: Burnaby

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