First-Generation Fuel Cells Moving Closer to Market

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Kensington, a well-known distributor of computer peripherals, has agreed to market Medis Technologies’ line of fuel cells, once they become available.

Fuel cells convert methanol into water and power. Many people see them as the best option for powering portable devices in the future, since a fuel cell can produce much more power than a battery of the same size. Still, they mostly remain on the drawing board.

When it comes on the market, Medis Technologies’ first-generation fuel cell will be a low-cost disposable model that users will be able to plug their devices into. It will be 3.2 inches by 2.2 inches by 1.2 inches.

Robert K. Lifton, the company’s Chairman and CEO, said, “Our disposable Power Pack is expected to have a suggested retail price of $14.99 and provide 15 hours (900 minutes) of talk time, offering many times the power and far lower cost per hour of use than existing disposable chargers. For consumers who want to keep a Power Pack in a survival kit, the Power Pack is planned to have unlimited life before the first use. Very significantly, unlike other cell phone chargers, the Power Pack can be used to charge digital cameras, MP3s [players], and other devices.”

Disposable fuel cells developed by Medis Technologies but sold under the Kensington brand are expected to appear in 2005. The company is continuing development of a second-generation, reusable version.

More information is available on the Medis Technologies web site.

Plenty of Competition

There are several other companies who are also working to bring practical fuel cells to the market.

Toshiba has said it will have a fuel cell capable of acting as an external recharger for electronic devices out in 2005. According to Toshiba, this will be capable of recharging a typical handheld or mobile phone six times. It will run off small methanol canisters.

Even more encouraging, Hitachi has a prototype fuel cell that is only the size of a AA battery. The company says this will be part of a shipping handheld next year.

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