Fuel cell use jumps on car and battery tests - study
LONDON - Fuel cell use has increased 58 percent this year with nearly 4,000 having been operated worldwide so far, an industry report said.
Fuel cells, which use hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, are expected to double in the next two years as car manufacturers trial vehicles and portable systems are developed, a one-year study by website Fuel Cell Today said.
\"There has been significant growth in the automobile sector, with 300 prototype vehicles built around the world since the mid 1990s,\" said co-author Mark Cropper.
The study, the first to measure how many fuel cells are operating, said around 530 fuel cell systems had been used for transport including in scooters, buses and spacecraft.
This is expected to surge as Honda and Nissan plan to sell their first fuel cell cars by next year, while other major manufacturers including DaimlerChrysler and Ford test vehicles.
Fuel cell vehicles emit only heat and water as by-products, whereas carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel vehicles is considered to contribute to global warming.
However, current limitations for vehicle use include the problem of storing and distributing hydrogen, while producing hydrogen may generate more carbon dioxide than combustion engines.
Around 1,700 smaller portable fuel cell systems have also been built with dramatic growth since 2001, the report said.
Toshiba is developing fuel cells batteries using methanol that last longer than traditional lithium ones, for potential use in laptops and mobile phones.
The use of larger fuel cells to provide power for buildings is expected to grow at a slower rate of 12 percent per year, the report said, with nearly 600 systems of over 10 kilowatts output already used.
\"Although it is difficult to say when fuel cells will be as commonplace as the battery or internal combustion engine, the industry is gaining momentum,\" the report said.
Energy major Shell\'s chairman Phil Watts told Reuters in an interview this week that in a successful scenario, hydrogen use for fuel cells could make up 25 percent of the energy mix by 2050.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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