Thursday, June 06, 2002

Interesting piece in CNN on Daimler Benz's efforts at building a fuel cell powered car that has been driven across America. Besides observing that this is probably the only chance Americans ever get to see something as small as an A-series Mercedes, allow me to comment that this is a good thing. The sooner that we can get off oil and onto engines that run on something else, the better. Its not that we are running out of oil or that cars are too polluting (although a less polluting engine would definitely be a bonus), but that we need a fuel for which the lowest cost producer is not Saudi Arabia. (Given that I do not expect Saudi Arabia to ever be the lowest cost producer of anything other than oil, we simply need any new type of engine.

As a quick aside, a fuel cell is simply a battery that can be recharged by adding fuel to it, rather than by recharging it. Ideally you just open a valve on it, poor in some methanol, or whatever, and bingo, it is recharged. A car using this then uses the power to drive an electric motor. Besides powering cars, cheap and efficient fuel cells would be a boon for road warriors with lots of cellphones, PDAs, and laptops. Rather than carrying spare batteries, or desperately trying to find a power outlet in a Starbucks, you simply carry a bottle of fuel with one. Or, once these things are widespread, you buy a small bottle of the stuff from a news-stand, or grocery shop, or wherever.

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