Ford says fuel cell venture with Daimler will close

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. and Daimler are winding down a joint venture formed to develop automotive fuel cell technology, Ford said on Wednesday, as the companies plan to take their fuel cell technology development in-house.

The venture -- Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation Corp. in Burnaby, British Columbia -- will close this summer, Ford said in response to an inquiry by Reuters.

Despite years of research and investment by major automakers and startups, vehicles powered by fuel cells remain a tiny niche in the global vehicle market.

Honda Motor Co. and General Motors are collaborating on fuel cell development, and Toyota Motor Corp. is ramping up efforts to mass-produce fuel cell stacks. This week, Ballard Power Systems Inc. extended a contract with Volkswagen Group"s Audi unit to work on fuel cell development.

Ford "will take fuel cell stack development in-house, as well as leverage the supply base, and close Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation Corp. by summer 2018," the company said. "Both companies will continue to explore ways to cooperate on developing fuel cell stack modules."

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche this year indicated that the German automaker was shifting its focus toward battery-electric vehicles.

The venture employed about 200 people, according to its website.