NEC Unveils Methanol-Fueled Laptop

from the tradeoffs dept

NEC has now stepped up to the plate and demonstrated a prototype of their methanol fuel cell powered laptop. They say a single fuel cell will keep the laptop running for about five hours. I still question the commonly held belief that everyone wants this. While short battery life is a pain – I’m not sure having to “refuel” or buy more fuel cells is going to be the solution that the average consumer wants either. The reason people like rechargeable batteries is that they don’t have to keep buying more batteries to keep something running. With fuel cells, you constantly need an extra supply of fuel with you (which, since they come in cartridges, most people will just think of as disposable batteries). The trend for most devices has been to go from disposable batteries to rechargeable batteries. Do we really want to go the other direction for laptops? It really comes down to a trade-off between short battery life and having to constantly buy new “batteries”. In my case, I’ll live with the shorter battery life, if it means I don’t have to constantly buy more fuel cells.

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Comments on “NEC Unveils Methanol-Fueled Laptop”

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Ray (profile) says:

Fuel cells for laptops

I’ve got to agree that fuel cells are really a niche item and should not be an either-or replacement for rechargeable batteries.

I’m as green as the next person, and 95% of the time the topped off charge from docking my laptop at work is fine for an evening’s take-home work.

I’d only consider fuel cells for long plane trips, end even then, a spare battery would accomplish the same thing. That’s how I work now, and I usually have opportunity to fully recharge at my destination before the return trip.

In a pinch, I’d rather count on finding a power outlet for an hour than a retailer stocked with my particular model of fuel cell.

One can only hope is that the manufacturers working on this are doing so with the intent that the target devices could use either full cells OR rechargeables, with both having the same form factor.

msykes says:

Re: When...

It sounds tempting when they talk about 40 hour battery lives, especially for weekend trips where electricity might not be readily available, but until it hits at least that level of charge I can’t imagine it’s that useful for many people.

Besides, the first one that leaks and fries the computers motherboard will cause quite a stink!


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