Beyond batteries: Long-lasting fuel cells are the future

Unlimited, lightweight and cheap mobile power is on the horizon

"Back then, lithium batteries cost US$30 per cell," recalls Toshiba's Collins. A typical notebook battery uses between three and nine cells. "Today, they're about $3 a cell. We expect this cost curve to apply to fuel cells and expect products that will be competitively priced in the consumer electronics marketplace. The bottom line is that the time for fuel cells has arrived."

A glimpse of the (near) future

Fast-forward just a few years to a business traveler on her way to Asia with a notebook full of work to do. Before getting on the plane, she stops at an airport convenience store to buy two methanol refill cartridges for her notebook and stashes them in her bag.

On the 15-hour flight, she puts the finishing touches on her presentation, clears out a backlog of e-mails and writes a memo about a new product. Before settling down to watch a DVD or two, she gets a warning that her notebook's fuel cell is running low on fuel. After replacing its methanol tank with a fresh one, she enjoys a movie marathon for the rest of the flight without interruption. Such prolonged use of a laptop simply isn't possible today.

Says Frost & Sullivan's Bradford: "In 10 years, we'll probably look back and wonder how we put up with lithium batteries."

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More about ClipperConsumer ElectronicsFAAFederal Aviation AdministrationFrost & Sullivan (Aust)SonySystems GroupToshiba

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