ISE, one of the companies responsible for the hydrogen bus pilot project underway in Whistler, filed for bankruptcy protection recently.
So far there has been no impact on parts and service from the company. And according to Paul Soubry, the president and CEO of New Flyer - the main contractor hired to build and maintain the hydrogen bus fleet - no problems are expected.
"ISE is an important part of the team... and a prime contractor," said Soubry. "They were the integrator, while Ballard Fuel Systems put together the fuel cells. The warranty, parts support and so forth, are wrapped up in the prime contract with us. So far it hasn't affected support on the ground, or our ability to get spare parts, and we've been monitoring this like crazy."
Soubry says they are also making contingency plans to source parts and expertise if the company is not able to recover. In the meantime their relationship is similar to the past, although ISE insists on being paid cash for parts and service rather than maintaining an account.
"We're doing everything we can to support ISE, but at the same time we have to think of the alternatives, like figuring out whether we can order parts from their (ISE's) suppliers, or alternative sources for engineering or programming should we ever have to go down that path."
Soubry says the best solution would be for ISE to continue, and said he is encouraged by what he's heard so far from the company. But whatever happens, he says New Flyer will meet its obligations.
"It's our name on the front (of the buses) and we're going to make damn sure we support the customer... and we will do the right thing in the end," he said.
California-based ISE Limited announced on Aug. 10 that its principal operating subsidiary, ISE Corporation, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection - a clause in the U.S. bankruptcy code that provides temporary protection from creditors while a company reorganizes, recapitalizes, reaches an agreement with creditors, sells off assets, or takes other steps to try to avoid bankruptcy.
The company, which specializes in hybrid-electric drive systems, has not fared well since its initial public offering (IPO) on the Toronto Stock Exchange, dropping from a high of $5.85 per share in February to roughly 30 cents this week.
According to B.C. Transit spokesperson Joanna Morton, they are aware of the situation but have not had any issues so far that would affect the hydrogen bus fleet.
"We've been working closely with New Flyer to ensure that the fuel cell fleet is regularly maintained throughout this demonstration," said Morton.
With 20 buses, Whistler boasts the largest hydrogen fuel cell fleet in the world. The almost $90 million pilot project, funded by all three levels of government, includes the new bus depot at Nesters, the fuelling station and other costs associated with the fleet. The buses were delivered and in operation before the 2010 Winter Olympics, showcasing the technology on the global stage.