Battery Company Betting On Fuel Cells

from the well,-of-course... dept

Gillette, makers of batteries (among other things), has decided that this fuel cell thing might really have some potential and have invested in a fuel cell company. While I agree that there’s a lot of potential for fuel cells, I still get confused when people say that they’ll replace rechargeable batteries. In the article, they quote someone from the fuel cell company saying: “Another advantage is that the fuel would come in replaceable cartridges. The user simply snaps in a new one rather than having to wait for a recharge.” A huge part of the reason people like rechargeable batteries instead of disposable batteries is that they don’t always need to buy new batteries and have them handy for when the old batteries die. While fuel cells may last longer, they bring back that issue of having to always buy more “cells” (which most consumers will simply consider to be “long life batteries” anyway) and have them around. While longer life power is nice, battery companies shouldn’t ignore the very reason people like rechargeables.

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Comments on “Battery Company Betting On Fuel Cells”

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Ed Halley says:

No Subject Given

You’re thinking of “rechargable while you wait”, while most of the replaceable fuel cells are “rechargable by the factory.”

I think this is much closer to the model of liquid propane tanks. You buy the LP which comes in a commodity tank, you burn the LP, then you trade the empty tank for an already-filled replacement. The tank is just a container which enables the real product (energy-bearing fuel) to be commercialized. However, you’ll incur extra costs if you damage or lose those tanks.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: No Subject Given

I’m confused. You’re saying that to get a new fuel cell for my cell phone or laptop, I’m going to have to send it back to the factory? I don’t think that’s how it’s going to work.

The way I’ve seen it described is that you’ll buy little “cartridges” that contain the fuel, and you’ll simply replace those cartridges within the fuel cell. Of course, since, conceptually, this is exactly the same as buying and replacing a battery, that’s the way people will view it.

I’m not exactly sure that we’re talking about the same things, though.

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

If they made it like butane cigarette lighters that you can refill, I can see it taking off. You carry around a can of compressed Hydrogen fuel and refill the cells as needed.

The problem is that companies don’t think that way, they want to tie you into a ‘subscription’ type program (just like inkjet printer manufacturers) so you have to keep coming back to them for regular purchases.

It is not in most companies interests to develop a user-refillable fuel cell unless they can find a way to make the refill kit somehow proprietary so that noone else can sell you a cannister of compressed hydrogen to refill your cells with.

Mark Murphy says:

Cartridge vs. battery size

I had read that, for a laptop-sized device, the fuel cartridge would be perhaps the size of a ballpoint pen refill. In that case, carrying spare cartridges is much easier and less expensive than carrying replacement rechargeable batteries for long airplane flights. Depending on the duration of the trip and the cost/hour of using the cartridges, you might also skip schlepping the AC adapter/battery charger.
In a way, it’s kinda like the arguments between battery-powered cars and fueled cars, just with the status quo being inverted. Battery-powered cars are fine so long as you aren’t going very far and are in position to get recharged when needed — fueled cars are more flexible in this regard.
What would be slick, if space permits, is to give the laptop both a short-life battery and the fuel cell. That way, if you unplug and wander around the office for a meeting, you are using the battery, but the fuel cell is available for extended periods away from AC power.

H-MAn (user link) says:

I can't wait to start buying

I can’t wait to see this released. I agree this will help with the prolferation and growth of the hydrogen fuel cells!!

The importance of this product is that it will get in the hands of the influencers who will eventually buy Hydrogen cars. This will show that it works and works well. We need to get past the earlier adopters and move fuel cells into the early majority where we will see exponential growth.

Keep up the good work and everyone…when it does come out…talk it up…show support…or else it will fizzle out…some choices are long term choices…pay now or pay later…there may be alternatives that seem cheaper, but in the long run the cost looks much different. – by H-Man!

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