Fuel cells are batteries that are not recharged but are instead
continuously supplied with fuel. Hydrogen and oxygen are the fuels.
The principal by-product is drinkable water. The system is sometimes
called "fireless electricity."
Fuel Cell Variations
There are many differences in size, techniques and efficiency.
|Transportation Fuel Cells
A few buses in Canada and Europe are presently propelled by fuel cells. Many
major automobile companies are building and demonstrating fuel cell vehicles.
We are uncomfortable with the current generation of vehicular fuel cells. Most
fuel cells presently depend upon utility-produced electricity
to provide the hydrogen fuel. This is using electricity to make
|Big Stationary Fuel Cells
Fuel cells are being produced, sold and used for local production of electricity,
often referred to as distributed generation. We see this as an especially promising
area of investment that is expected to economically compete with utility generation.
The larger fuel cells are able to derive fuel from waste water, biomass in
dumps, gas from coal mines and the gas exuded from breweries. The great heat
of the larger stationary fuel cells can internally separate the hydrogen from
these raw fuels.
|Portable Fuel Cells
Miniature fuel cells promise to supply cell phones and laptops with electricity
from ethanol and other liquid fuels. These are not yet on the market.
Hydrogen has been touted as the fuel of the future. It can be used
in fuel cells or combusted with very low emissions.
Where Does the Hydrogen Come From?
Sources for the separation of hydrogen are fossil fuels (natural
gas, oil, coal), biomass fuels (ethanol, waste gas) and electricity.
Electrolysis is the process by which electricity is used to separate
water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen. The electricity often comes
from conventional utilities, but it can also come from renewable
sources such as solar and wind energy.
Many stationary fuel cells can create the hydrogen fuel they require by reforming
natural gas, methane, ethanol and/or biomass. This is very