Fast lane

Pollution free fuel

Petrol-powered fuel cell system that could eventually lead to virtually pollution-free cars has been tested lately. The development could pave the way for high-mileage, low-emission electric vehicles that can be refueled quickly at existing petrol stations, eliminating the need for bulky rechargeable batteries. The fuel cell can achieve double the fuel economy of automobiles and reduce automobiles’ emissions of greenhouse gases by one half. The new method uses a fuel cell — a device first used by the US space agency NASA for its Apollo moon programme — to convert petrol or alternative fuels (like ethanol, methanol or natural gas) into hydrogen, which when mixed with oxygen from the air can generate electric current.

Hydrogen fuel cells

PolyFuel, a world leader in engineered membranes for fuel cells, has announced a breakthrough in technology that could ultimately make hydrogen fuel cell-powered automobiles a commercial reality. At the heart of the breakthrough is a new family of membranes — the crucial heart of a fuel cell — that exhibit a set of performance characteristics never before simultaneously achieved in hydrogen-based fuel cells. PolyFuel has already introduced the highest-performing membranes available for the compact, portable, met-hanol-based fuel cells that are widely being developed to replace batteries in portable electronic devices such as notebook computers and cell phones.

“A commercially-viable fuel cell for automotive applications is sort of the ‘holy grail’ among developers of advanced technology vehicles,” said Atakan Ozbek, director of energy research at ABI Research. “Ideally, one would hope for a solution that yielded vehicles with costs, capabilities, and performance similar to those on the road today. Unfortunately, current fuel cell technology has not yet reached that ideal.” It is a holy grail because the automotive market is huge; 60 million automobiles are produced each year. On the assumption that

automotive fuel cells will ultimately meet the stringent requirements demanded by automakers, and once the fuel delivery infrastructure begins to approach reasonable levels, adoption by consumers of the pollution-free vehicles will begin gaining momentum, according to most analysts.