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Researchers Closer to Getting Fuel Cells to Run on Gasoline

New fuel cell goes from liquid fuel to electricity without a separate hydrogen generator

4 min read

4 April 2005— Fuel cells, the clean-burning engines of the envisioned hydrogen economy, offer the promise of less pollution and lower fuel consumption. Until there are hydrogen fueling stations along all our roads, however, researchers are trying to make fuel cell advances for what we already have—thousands and thousands of gasoline stations.

Researchers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., have now come up with a new, compact fuel-cell design that will take a type of gasoline, turn it into hydrogen, and convert it to electricity at a fuel efficiency higher than that of commercial gas/electric hybrids.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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