FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) -- Volkswagen Group's Audi unit bought fuel-cell technology from Ballard Power Systems in a deal worth as much as $112 million to advance development of clean-running vehicles at the world's second-largest automaker.
Audi bought about 700 patents from Ballard, a spokesman for the automaker told Automotive News Europe.
Ballard will transfer the automotive-related patents to VW Group for $50 million and will provide engineering services through March 2019, the Canadian technology company said Wednesday in a statement.
"We are securing crucial expertise that will provide new impetus for the further development of this technology," Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi's development chief, said in a separate statement.
Audi plans to make the technology available to other Volkswagen brands, which include Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini.
Fuel cells create electricity in the chemical reaction that creates water from the combination of hydrogen and oxygen. The technology offers prospects for zero-emission vehicles with longer ranges than current electric cars. Still, executives including Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and Tesla Motors' Elon Musk have questioned the economic viability of the technology.
During the Automotive News World Congress last month in Detroit Musk said: "I think hydrogen fuel cells are extremely silly" because he feels they provide a very low level of efficiency.
Fuel cell vehicles also require investment in hydrogen fueling stations. Toyota Motor started selling the $62,000 fuel cell-powered Mirai sedan in Japan in December. It will be available in the U.S. and Europe later this year and has a driving range of 300 miles (480km), more than most plug-in electric cars. It emits only heat and water.
While VW has been cautious about the large-scale rollout of the technology in the near term, the company has intensified development efforts. In recent months, the automaker has presented fuel cell-powered concept cars based on the VW Golf hatchback and Passat sedan as well as the Audi A7 luxury coupe.
Douglas A. Bolduc contributed to this report