Siemens VDO Automotive Corp. acquires Ballard Power Systems Inc.’s electric drive system business.

The C$4 million ($3.5 million) deal is expected to be final early next year. It involves Ballard’s research, development and manufacturing operations in Dearborn, MI, affecting about 80 “highly specialized” personnel, Siemens says.

Those employees will join Siemens VDO’s powertrain electronics and drivetain division, which is making a play for a larger share of the hybrid vehicle business.

The acquisition positions Siemens VDO to better compete in the global hybrid vehicle market, estimated to be worth $14 billion by 2015.

Meanwhile, as auto makers advance their development of hydrogen-powered vehicles, Canada-based Ballard is focusing more intently on its goal of bringing fuel cell stacks to market by 2010.