Sunday, March 16, 2003

More on Fuel Cells

There is a good overview of the state of fuel cell technology in the New York Times. People quoted are talking more about fuel cells as auxilliary power sources, with the primary power device for portable electronic products remaining a conventional battery. We will see how this develops. In the long term fuels cells promise much longer operating times than even the best batteries, and this seems a big deal to me.

They are also talking about using snap in cartridges of fuel, rather than having the users refuel them directly. This is probably more convenient, although a situation where the packaging costs more than the fuel by a large factor (which seems inevitably the case here) does strike me as problematic. I can see the hard core geeks refilling the cartridges themselves, if nothing more than that.

Update:There's even more here. (via Instapundit). This emphases another issue: conventional Lithium-Ion batteries are heavy. Fuel cells are potentially much lighter. Both these articles mention the possibility of refueling on the fly: inserting a new cartridge of fuel into the fuel cell without needing to power down your laptop or PDA. Although this is nice, it actually isn't that important to me. The issue is now whether I have to power down as much as the time that it takes to recharge a conventional battery, and the fact that I need access to a power outlet for some time in order to do it. Next to this, the need to power down (Just to "hibernate" mode, so I don't need to close everything) is a relatively minor inconvenience.

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