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(E) Fuel cells
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  01/6/2002 | Education | Unrated
(E) Fuel cells 
Does anybody from the CROWN knows more about Fuel Cells? Does Croatia have 
any research on the issue? Please let me know. 
Nenad Bach 
January 17, 2001 
Trend number nine: Energy 
Fuel cells will reduce our reliance on oil and allow businesses and 
homeowners to produce electricity independently. 
By Lee Bruno 
From the December 04, 2000 issue 
Fuel cells are likely to find their way into several thousand medium-sized 
businesses and homes over the course of the next year. This will lead to 
greater consumer and business awareness about fuel cell potential and an 
increase in fuel cell production for 2002. 
Fuel cell companies like Ballard Power Systems (Nasdaq: BLDP), H Power 
(Nasdaq: HPOW), Plug Power (Nasdaq: PLUG), Mechanical Technology (Nasdaq: 
MKTY) (owns 30 percent of Plug Power and Avista), International Fuel Cells 
(formerly ONSI), and automobile makers committed to fuel cell investments and 
technology like Ford Motor (NYSE: F) and DaimlerChrysler (NYSE: DCX). 
Local power utility companies, oil-burning power plants, and manufacturers of 
gasoline-driven power generators. 
See also: 
Dead ringers 
Fuel's Paradise   
 Talking Points 
Think our trends are off base? 
Video: Watch Herring editors defend the top ten against George Gilder. 
Go to our discussion forum to debate energy issues It's been decades since 
fuel cells first were pegged as a savior technology for the energy industry. 
But during those years the technology -- which promises to replace 
nonrenewable energy sources like oil and also help reduce pollution -- seemed 
to be stuck in slow-lane development. Over the past nine months investors 
have glimpsed signs that fuel cells might soon have their day, and have begun 
plowing money into this promising technology, which Goldman Sachs estimates 
could represent a $95 billion market in ten years. 
Here's how they work. Fuel cells convert chemical energy into electricity by 
breaking apart hydrogen bonds in the water molecule and using that energy to 
generate a flow of electrons. The same process can be used to power 
everything from cell phones (see "Dead Ringers") and laptops to cars and 
buses. Some supporters of the technology have gone so far as to predict that 
fuel cells have the potential to transform the energy industry in the same 
way the microprocessor transformed the logic industry. 
Although the fuel cell concept dates back to the 1830s, it has only recently 
developed practical applications as an environmentally friendly and efficient 
energy technology (see chart Fuel's Paradise). 
One big motivation: costs associated with producing fuel cells have fallen 
dramatically, now approaching the 1 to 2 cents per kilowatt hour that it 
costs to produce electricity from oil or gas. Fuel cell projects are getting 
off the ground just as rising fuel and electricity prices are hitting 
consumers and businesses in the United States and Europe -- a situation that 
led to President Bill Clinton's September release of strategic oil reserves. 
Other factors are contributing to the sudden interest in fuel cells. Around 
the globe, governments have been adopting more stringent air pollution 
regulations. At the same time, states and nations are in the process of 
deregulating their power industries. Meanwhile, utilities are facing 
increased demands for reliable power. 
Buses powered by fuel cells were tested in California this year. By 2003, 
California emission standards will require 10 percent of cars sold in the 
state to have zero emissions. Other states have emission standards that will 
force large auto companies to produce these fuel cell-powered vehicles. 
DaimlerChrysler (NYSE: DCX), Ford Motor (NYSE: F), General Motors (NYSE: GM), 
Toyota Motor (NYSE: TM), and American Honda Motor are investing in fuel 
cells, either by developing or licensing fuel cell technology. Mercedes-Benz 
has announced that in Europe it plans to build 20 to 30 buses powered by fuel 
cells, which will go on sale in 2002. 
Several states are now in the process of deregulating their utility markets. 
Among them, Connecticut, Maine, Texas, Illinois, and California have passed 
regulations that require a specific percentage of renewable-energy sources. 
The market for fuel cells breaks into three distinct categories: residential, 
commercial, and transportation. Among the players in the residential market: 
H Power (Nasdaq: HPOW), Plug Power (Nasdaq: PLUG), and Avista (NYSE: AVA), 
all of which are now testing fuel cells in the field. Plug Power, in 
partnership with General Electric (NYSE: GE), is looking to produce fuel 
cells capable of delivering 250 to 300 kW, which is sufficient to supply 
power for a small hospital. The two leading companies developing both 
transportation and stationary residential and commercial uses are 
International Fuel Cells (formerly ONSI), which has been producing fuel cells 
for 20 years for the U.S. space program, and Ballard Power Systems (Nasdaq: 
Fuel cell technology will give consumers the option of producing electricity 
for their own homes using a variety of small, 1 to 3 kW fuel cell generators 
being developed by Plug Power, which specializes in fuel cells for powering 
individual homes. An added benefit: consumers will be able to resell unused 
kilowatts back to the local utilities managing the power grid. 
What's both compelling and problematic about fuel cells is that several 
different types of fuels, primarily hydrogen, methanol, propane, and 
gasoline, can be used to run a fuel cell, thus opening up choices for 
consumers. However, there's a downside to this freedom of choice. Without a 
single, standardized fuel, it's hard to scale up the distribution network 
that would be capable of profitably delivering fuel to the automobiles and 
power generators. Not only that, but any new fuel choice will require 
conversion of existing gas stations and a host of additional conversion 
In addition, critics of the alternative energy technology point out that it 
faces a classic supply-and-demand conundrum: will fuel cell manufacturers be 
able to increase production capabilities quickly enough to meet the expected 
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