What happened 

Shares of fuel-cell company Ballard Power Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:BLDP) jumped as much as 20.8% in trading Wednesday after announcing a new fuel cell that doesn't use precious metals as a catalyst. The product could make fuel cells more accessible for commercial fuel cells when it's launched later this year. Shares held most of their gains late in the day and were up 19.9% at 1:30 p.m. EDT. 

So what

A collaboration with Nisshinbo Holdings led to the first commercialized non-precious metal catalyst (NPMC)-based exchange membrane. This is the membrane that turns hydrogen into energy, and is often limited by its use of expensive precious metals. According to Ballard, platinum use will be reduced by over 80% in the new fuel cell. 

Close up picture of Ballard's new fuel cell, which is about the size of a pen.

Image source: Ballard Energy Systems.

Platinum alone can account for 10% to 15% of the cost of a fuel-cell stack today, so reducing precious-metal usage could help lower costs. That's what the market is betting on today

Now what

It'll take years to determine if this new NPMS-based fuel cell will be a financial success for Ballard, but advancing technology is the first step. Look for more information on sales and adoption in 2018 as the product is launched and the company finds applications for it. Management has already indicated that Japan will be a strategic channel with partners and important applications as the country looks to low-carbon sources of fuel.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.