Bringing Fuel Cells Down to Earth

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Science  30 Jul 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5428, pp. 682-685
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5428.682

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Automakers are banking on fuel cells, used to run equipment aboard spacecraft, to power the first zero-emission vehicles; the type of fuel that supplies the cells could determine how deeply these cars penetrate the market. Engineers and clean-air experts say the simplest and cleanest option is hydrogen gas itself, while car and oil companies would prefer to equip vehicles with miniature chemical factories to convert liquid fuels, such as gasoline or methanol, into hydrogen gas that can be fed into fuel cells. Critics, meanwhile, argue that the converters likely will be expensive and prone to breaking down.