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Fuel Cells To Appear In Laptops In 2004 393

prostoalex writes "The overhyped fuel cells will finally be delivered to the portable computing market. Toshiba and NEC will incorporate fuel cells into the laptops by 2004. Sony, Hitachi and Casio are expected to follow the suit. The tests show a fuel cell lasting 10 hours. With the form-factor of a Bic lighter, it allows the laptop user to carry a few extra cells in the laptop bag all the time. Battery prices are expected to run at about $200."
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Fuel Cells To Appear In Laptops In 2004

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  • by donnacha ( 161610 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:14PM (#6854872) Homepage


    Booooooooooooooooooooommmmmmm!!!!!!



    ... damn, I liked my testicles.

  • by adsl ( 595429 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:14PM (#6854875)
    Sounds rather like a potential weapon to me. In which case what's the point?
  • Worth the risk? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bob Vila's Hammer ( 614758 ) * on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:15PM (#6854876) Homepage Journal
    I say the venture is worth the risk. A new standard can always be used in different ways than previously planned. Alternative power sources aren't needed for just laptops and if the technology is there, use it!
    • I'm just surprised that Apple isn't on top of this. The battery is the heaviest component of a laptop, and this thing has the potential to drop the weight of a standard desktop replacement laptop to like 3 pounds, which would be freakin' sweet.

      It's going to be the CD/DVD drive that will be mitigating factor in laptop size, that is, until we all get on board with smaller, alternative media, like USB memory keys or smart cards of some sort.

      This would also have amazing applications in other devices, as
      • " The day I can drive from home to school (~400 miles) without buying gas is the day that I will buy an alternative-fuel car."

        It doesn't take an alternative fuel car. A friend of mine has '72 Dodge Monaco station wagon that he's restored. He has a 440 big block that has been bored out to 490 in it, and three fuel tanks. Even with that monster power plant, and 6000lb GVWR, he can go 500 miles without refuelling. Of course, right now, it'll cost him more than $100 to refuel...

        I think that if you had
      • Re:Worth the risk? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:34AM (#6856964) Journal
        The battery is the heaviest component of a laptop

        Uhh... All I can say is that you are completely wrong. Batteries aren't very heavy compared to the notebook itself, and even if they were, Li-Ion batteries are quite light as well.

        It's going to be the CD/DVD drive that will be mitigating factor in laptop size, that is, until we all get on board with smaller, alternative media, like USB memory keys or smart cards of some sort.

        Not going to happen. Nothing else can be nearly as cheap as "dumb" media, like optical discs. Smart devices like CompactFlash are always going to be significantly more expensive than CDs/DVDs, unles there is a very very major breakthrough in technology, which I don't expect for the next decade.

        The best you can hope for is minidiscs getting to be popular.

        But besides that, small notebooks are small enough as it is. Much smaller and you wouldn't be able to type reasonable well. The space the CD takes up really isn't that significant in the big scheme of things.

        As for the large notebooks, it certainly isn'th the CD-ROM that makes them large.
  • by ultrapenguin ( 2643 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:16PM (#6854879)
    Is how much do the refills cost? Surely, 100ml or whatever of methanol is going to last you for 10 hours, but what do you do then?
    You can't regenerate it, so you go shopping for a refill?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Is how much do the refills cost? Surely, 100ml or whatever of methanol is going to last you for 10 hours, but what do you do then? You can't regenerate it, so you go shopping for a refill?"

      There's included instructions on how to fart into the fuel cell. That provides enough fuel for another 10 hours.
    • by Alizarin Erythrosin ( 457981 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:22PM (#6854927)
      Could you imagine a bunch of nerds standing around the "pumps" at a refil station talking like truckers?

      - "Where ya crunchin today"
      - "I'm headin ova to the east side to war drive for a few hours then I gotta catch me a plane to Utah to kick McBride in the crotch."
      - "Get 'er dun"

      But seriously. Hopefully the refils are cheap enough that it would make this feasible. Otherwise I personally only see the technology being viable for desknotes or desktop replacement computers that are rarely away from a wall socket and could benifit from a (very) small battery.
    • Exactly, what I was wondering. This is a complete paradigm shift in that plugging in the laptop won't recharge it if you're using fuel cells. That doesn't sit well with me. I mean, fuel cells will have to be as easily available as a power outlet because as it is people get peeved when inkjet cartridges need to be replaced. Also the fuel cells refills will have to cost the same as a conventional recharge. 2004 release? Forgive me if I believe DNF will be available first.
    • by homer_ca ( 144738 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:40PM (#6855046)
      Methanol itself is dirt cheap. It's a little more expensive than gasoline, and these fuel cells only use a 24% solution of methanol. 24% is less flammable than the vodka from the drink cart. Article says nothing about refilling, but the potential for profiteering is there by forcing people to buy prefilled fuel canisters just like with inkjets. Of course, the manufacturers will say that they just want to guarantee you the best quality fuel because who knows what impurities are in Brand X methanol mix that'll contaminate your fuel cell.
      • Surely somebody could just market a refiller like you get refiller aerosol cans for reusable lighters? 500ml can with nozzle that pokes into the fuel cell, give it a shot, and you're refueled?

        Ok so we know that the big fuel cells companies will try to sit on top of this like homer_ca says, insist their brand can't be mixed. but surely somebody is likely to come out with the Taiwanese / Chinese made generic refillable version, hack the technology?

        Not an engineer, so can somebody let me know if this is fe

    • Its more of a convience factor.

      Are you really going to run out and get a new supply every x hours of computer time vs. plug into a wall socket? How easy will it to be buy the refills? Will it be only in specialty stores?
    • I can't imagining this costing too much. Unless the mixture has to be perfect and pure, various alcohols are pretty cheap. I can get a gallon of methonal for a few bucks and that should be quite a few refills when diluted and put in a lighter sized cell.
    • The current price for methanol is on the order of 230USD per ton--about seventy cents per gallon [methanex.com]. The article describes the fuel cell as being the size of a Bic lighter or an inkjet cartridge, so it could hold at most about 30 mL (one fluid ounce) of 24% methanol--worth a little over a tenth of a cent, in bulk...

      Granted, there is probably some processing, but even analytical grade lab methanol isn't going to cost you that much more. The biggest part of the price will be the container--and I wouldn't be

  • by ModernGeek ( 601932 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:17PM (#6854883)
    I want to know if the fuel can be stored in a canister like butane is, and have it so you can refill the little cartidges with somthing like that, so you can buy the stuff from any place like a gas station or any other type of store, for a cheap price. I also want to know if Apple has plans to embrace the technology, and if they could cram the entire fuelcell into a battery pack, so it can be an option to use a recharage laptop battery or a fuel cell, and have it use the same slot, etc. Out of curiousity, do the 12/15/17"PBG4s and the iBook have the same type of battery, as it would help a new option of a fuel cell in a batterypack form come along, and it could be easially refilled. Any input on this?
    • Well, about replacing battery packs on existing laptop models, I can see a pretty aftermarket developing pretty fast. Think of Nokia cell phone batt packs. Everyone and their dog manufactures them, and what worries me is: those are stuck to the physics and electricity and actually they occasionally blow up. I don't want to imagine how those aftermarket packs will behave when there is actually something pressurized and flammable in there.

      Also, anotherissue will be planes. They don't allow pressurized cartri
  • by PhoenixOne ( 674466 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:17PM (#6854886)
    "After about 10 hours of operation, you will pop out a fuel cell cartridge about the size of a Bic lighter or inkjet cartridge"

    Is it just me, or can you already see the "FILL YOUR OWN FUEL CELL AND SAVE $$$" spam filling your mailbox? ;)

  • Why only one? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Squareball ( 523165 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:17PM (#6854887)
    If one fuel cell lasts 10 hours and is the size of a bic lighter.. why not use 2 or 3 of them, or just make the one bigger to give more life between charges?
    • I imagine that cost would be a big problem with that. Laptops are already quite expensive, and an even higher price tag isn't going to help.
    • Re:Why only one? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Squarewav ( 241189 )
      the things the size of a bic are not the fuel cells themselves but rather just the fuel, I'm pretty sure the actual fuel cell, is at least the size of a normal battery, as far why not make the fuel packs bigger, prob has to do with a number of things such as space, cost, and the fact that people like the idea of these things being that small, or may have something to do with air ports not allowing over a set amount of flammable liquid, (basically anything larger then a bic)
    • by ProfessionalCookie ( 673314 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @10:06PM (#6855916) Journal
      'course you can get a lil one to run 10+ hours if you're using a 200Mhz Transmeta with no optical drive and a itty bitty 10" screen. I think that's what they mean by "it will last 10 hours." In reality I don't expect this bic lighter to last any longer than my current battery.

      If I had a 2Ghz P4 I wouldn't expect it to last more than 2 hours.

      My bet is that those 10 hour estimates rely on future expected power saving advancements (read: Vapor!).
  • Call me a skeptic (and I hope I'm wrong), but I don't think 2004 will see this. At least not to the general laptop buying populus.

    The business flyers, which probably comprise at least 70% of laptop users, will be hard-pressed to get "BIC lighter-sized" fuel cells onto planes, unless it's disguised as a lighter (which aren't supposed to be allowed anyway).

    Imagine explaining to security what that little sucker is.

    • Airlines have already approved fuel-cell powered laptops on their planes, it is very harmless and such, and airport security is susposed to just keep joe-sixpack from bringing in a gun in his suitcase, they aren't going to check for a small lighter-sized thing in your laptop.
    • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:23PM (#6854930) Homepage

      Well, fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be), the tobacco industry lobbyists won a battle with the homeland security people: lighters and matches are not banned from airplanes, because big tobacco called their pet politicians and fought the proposed regs. You can take a Bic lighter on a plane in the US.

      • by karnal ( 22275 )
        You can take a BIC lighter, but you cannot take a refillable lighter (not zippo, but the liquid fuel kind)...

        I had one confiscated at the airport.... wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't a gift given to my girlfriend from someone in australia.....
    • Imagine explaining to security what that little sucker is.

      There was a time that I carried a alphanumeric pager, and like any good geek I hacked together a ttl logic serial port and changed it's basic configeration. It was most useful going to the airport, this was pre-9/11. They would ask me to turn it on, I said it was on. They told me to make it say something, so I hit the little button and it said, "Bugger off".

      will be hard-pressed to get "BIC lighter-sized" fuel cells onto planes, unless it's dis
  • by Dancin_Santa ( 265275 ) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:18PM (#6854897) Journal
    "The issue isn't 'Are flammable liquids safe on an aircraft?' They already are allowed with liquor and perfume,"

    If I had my druthers, perfume would be banned completely from all flights.

    But seriously, the main problem is that these fuel cells can be easily reconfigured to contain highly explosive materials for use as portable bombs. In this highly charged anti-terrorism atmosphere, it is important to make technology as transparent as possible. The more a technology relies on bomb-like batteries or razor-like Flash memory cards, the more likely it becomes that a real terrorist could sneak a truly dangerous device onboard.
  • reusable? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bartyboy ( 99076 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:19PM (#6854899)
    They mention that the cells can be refilled, but no mention where or how. Somehow I don't think people will want to buy 6 or 8 hours of extra battery time if they have to pay $200 bucks for it.

    They also mention that the infrastructure's not there yet to support these cells. I'm guessing that means there are no places that will refill them.

    So if you desperately need that much battery power, pay the price each time until refill stations come along. yay.
    • They also mention that the infrastructure's not there yet to support these cells. I'm guessing that means there are no places that will refill them.

      Sounds like a business opportunity! Imagine how much money you could make gouging users before refill stations become common.

    • Re:reusable? (Score:2, Informative)

      by patman600 ( 669121 )
      They also mention that the infrastructure's not there yet to support these cells. I'm guessing that means there are no places that will refill them.

      They mention that there is no infrastructure to support fuel cell cars, and they say laptops will be the first products to market that use fuel cells because they don't have the infrastructure hurdle.

      Also, they don't talk of refilling them, they say that you will swap out a fuel cartridge. It sounds like the only infrastructure required is some shelf spac
  • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:19PM (#6854901)
    Will these fuel cells fit into current generation laptops or will they require the purchase of a new laptop? (I think I know the answer to that question but I'm trying not to be too cynical here..)

    /Mikael

  • by woobieman29 ( 593880 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:20PM (#6854909)
    That the manufacturers will pull an 'Ink Jet Cartridge' here and make it so that these things are not (easily) refillable? Plan on having to buy these only from the manufacturer, at a ridiculously inflated price. The whole Ink Jet cartridge BS is the main reason I stepped up and bought a laser printer for home use.
    • That the manufacturers will pull an 'Ink Jet Cartridge' here and make it so that these things are not (easily) refillable? Plan on having to buy these only from the manufacturer, at a ridiculously inflated price. The whole Ink Jet cartridge BS is the main reason I stepped up and bought a laser printer for home use.

      Well, hopefully some company that will make easily refillable generic batteries that can go in the laptop. Sure, they can DRM the refillable cartrdiges, but would they DRM the whole battery?
  • by rzbx ( 236929 ) <slashdot AT rzbx DOT org> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:20PM (#6854912) Homepage
    It claims they will run about $200. That is very cheap considering some of the best batteries we have now cost just about the same. Fuels cells have also looked to be rather expensive everywhere I've seen them. Check out http://wwww.fuelcellstore.com for example. Why are these fuel cells on places like fuelcellstore.com so expensive and the ones they plan on putting out as laptop power devices fairly cheap? I understand that economics has partly to do with it since the laptop fuel cells will be sold in much larger quantities. I still wonder and would love to hear someone who knows anything about this.
    • Because they are raping you while they can... It's new, so charge a buttload for it! People will buy it anyway. There are so few places to buy fuel cell devices now that they are exploiting it for all they can get. If I had a way to build the perfect car that can get 100 miles/gallon running on nothing but water and outperform almost anything on the street for $1000 do you really think I'd sell it for $1500? Hell no; the thing would cost $40K!
  • I just hope they don't try to emulate the 'printer ink' market as far as revinue goes. I wouldn't be suprised to see $5/cart, even though the contents would cost less then a nickle if you could refill them.
  • by photoblur ( 552862 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:24PM (#6854934) Homepage
    I've heard rumors of fuel cells coming to market for quite some time now. Most of the fuel cell research seemed to be related to cars, though.

    I think the tech sector is definately a more appropriate audience for fuel cells, the market is much more used to accepting new technologies and living with a short product life span.

    It is good that the problems and shortcomings of fuel cells can be uncovered by the tech market before the auto industry adopts them. It'd be a shame to have a car that you just paid $20,000 for break down after a couple years!
  • Why am I suddenly thinking

    'briefcase bomb'?

    "Don't even think about it man, this laptop is armed and ready to blow!"

    (I am suddenly reminded of the nifty little gizmo briefcase that James Bond used to carry around ;^)
  • Correct me if I am wrong but do not fuel cells not handle heat very well?

  • Fuel cell-powered laptop prototypes have been developed by Toshiba (6502.T) and NEC (6701.T), who plan to start selling them as full-fledged products next year. Casio (6952.T), Sony (6758.T) and Hitachi (6501.T) and Samsung (00830.KS) of Korea are also working on micro fuel cell technology.

    Goodman predicts that, in a matter of years, fuel cell batteries no bigger than a cigarette lighter will run for 10 hours or more before being replaced.


    I suspect prostoalex might work in a PR department.
  • forget fuel cells (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ejaw5 ( 570071 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:32PM (#6854996)
    How about a wind-up dynamo crank on the side of the laptop? Let's make it 1 minute winding = 30-60min power.
    • >How about a wind-up dynamo crank on the side of the laptop? Let's make it 1 minute winding = 30-60min power.

      Or you could intergrate that into the screen hinge. But, just imagine a geek, with his spastic uncoordinated movements, trying to charge his laptop. It'll look like he's doing the polka on an accordion.
  • What do you think will happen as a result of this?

    Some of my guesses include:

    1. increase notebook/laptop sales -- people who think their notebooks are "fast enough" will finally have a compelling reason to switch.

    2. revolutionize the UPS (uninterruptable power supply) market.

    3. dramatically increase the number of wirelessly connected users.

    4. ad hoc LAN parties!

    And so on...what is your prediction?
  • A pic and a link (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BlackHat ( 67036 ) <Tahkcalb@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:35PM (#6855013) Journal
    Picture of one for laptops [fuelcells.org]
    from
    Fuelcell.org [fuelcells.org]
    you may now mod this as redundant.
  • by barfomar ( 557172 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:36PM (#6855023)
    I went to Radio Shack and made up a couple of battery packs of AA and D cells with the same plug in connector that matches the laptop.

    Just add some fresh cells when you get in a bind and it works without having to ante up $200 for an overpriced rechargeable from the manufacturer.

    I usually use it plugged into the wall, but like to have the option of using the batteries.

    You'd have to buy a lot of alkalines to offset the rechargeable's cost that never lasts as long as they boast.

  • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @07:47PM (#6855077) Homepage
    I'd like more battery life just as much as the next guy, but I don't intend to replace my laptop's batteries untill recharges are "free".

    Right now, how does it work? I use my battery, and it gets low. Then I plug my laptop in and after a short time, the battery is "magically" refilled, and it didn't cost my any money (my electric bill, but that's a few cents max). I can recharge my laptop ANYWHERE I can find an outlet, which is just about anywhere.

    Now for the fuel cell battery. I use my battery and it's gone. Now I have to recharge it with a new little lighter sized cartridge thing. I don't want to pay $5 for 'em. I don't want to pay $1 for 'em. If I got a few refillable fuel "cartridges" when I bought my laptop and some kind of home refuling station that would use my natural gas line or something, I would consider it, maybe. I'll take my 3 or 4 hour battery life over your 10 since mine is free. And when do I need 10 hours of battery life anyway? Most people probably don't, as they could probably find places to plug in by then.

    So how do you get me to do something like this? Make a fuel cell battery that works with something like pure hydrogen and oxygen. It mixes them to make electricity and stores the water in a little compartment. Then when I plug my laptop into the wall, it uses the electricity to reseperate the water into hydrogen and oxygen and stores them back in their own little compartments. Basically a sealed system that works just like a standard battery. I really don't care what's in it, or how it works, but unless it works a LOT like a battery, I'm not terribly interested. I'm not paying for what I get for "free".

    • by Kaz Riprock ( 590115 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @08:25PM (#6855264)
      Is this a troll? When do you need 10 hours of life? How about crammed into the economy class of your favorite airline with Lizzie McGuire as the only movie on the flight...Or on any one of a number of long distance trips (train, bus, etc).

      What about outside on a park bench enjoying some summer air while you do your work by wireless LAN?

      Mixing pure hydrogen and oxygen? Storing pure oxygen in something small and lightweight enough to carry around without a wheelchair? If you can tether yourself for enough time to gain a full charge often enough to run off of a 2 hour battery (and I'm not talking about playing a few mp3s with the lid down but using the DVD-ROM full screen while powering your wireless card, USB optical mouse, and 15" LCD screen...) which would give you about 45 minutes to move about before your hibernate function kicks in...

      You have to be joking. A 10 hour fuel cell that I can refill with my mixture of methanol/water from home (actually, I'd just steal from the lab) is a great idea...at only a fraction of the cost more than a replacement battery every few years!
      • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @08:54PM (#6855470) Homepage
        No, it's not a troll. I don't need 10 hours of life. I don't take many flights. When I do, they don't tend to be that long, my four hours of battery life can cover me. For an international flight or something else that would be that long, I'd get a power adaptor that would let me plug into the plane, or I would carry an extra battery. I realise that having 10 hours of battery life would be very handy for many people, but many people (like me) just don't need it.

        Sitting on a park bench while enjoying summer air? This is /.! OK, all joking aside, I don't have wireless lan and even if I did, I can't see myself sitting for more than 2 or 3 hours outside using my laptop. For one thing I've found laptop screens can be hard to read in sunlight, and either way I'm not an outdoors person (allergies). Again, my batteries could cover me for what I'd do.

        I used the oxygen/hydrogen thing as an example. As for charge time, I usually let my laptop charge overnight.

        I would like a 10 hour battery too, and I would need to be able to refill it at home, but I'm NOT going to pay someone $5 for a few hours worth of fuel because you can't recharge it anywhere there is an electrical outlet the way my battery can.

    • Historically, the wholesale cost for methanol in the United States over the past 20 years has been about 45 per gallon.

      If this machine is using 24% methanol mixed with water, then 1 gallon of this Fuel Cell fuel should cost around 11 cents.

      Basically a dime for a gallon, I'm assuming you that should last you a fairly long time. Probably cheaper than the electricity it takes to charge your laptop.
    • by jonbrewer ( 11894 ) * on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @09:36PM (#6855719) Homepage
      Right now, how does it work? I use my battery, and it gets low. Then I plug my laptop in and after a short time, the battery is "magically" refilled, and it didn't cost my any money (my electric bill, but that's a few cents max). I can recharge my laptop ANYWHERE I can find an outlet, which is just about anywhere.

      Yeah, but your lithium-ion battery lasts what, 18 months? Two years? And how long does it retain full capacity? Six months? I'll gladly ditch my batteries for fuel cells if they'll last the life of the device. My 1998 Thinkpad 770 is on its fourth Li-ion battery, and they haven't been cheap.
  • If they were actually that close to tapping the laptop market, they'd have more products for the desktop market. In particular, I'd like to see a UPS system that uses fuel cells and doesn't suffer from a "battery wear" problem. The battery in my first UPS went bad before it was even used once. Until I see results in other markets, there is no way I'm going to expect it to perform as advertised in a portable.

  • by Martin65 ( 166012 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @08:03PM (#6855152) Journal
    I just hope that the various manufacturers can standardize their cartridges so they become interchangable from one model laptop to the other !!! THIS would be a feature I'd pay for.
  • How Much Do We Need? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by swdunlop ( 103066 ) <swdunlopNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @08:26PM (#6855272) Homepage
    "Now I travel to Europe and I can't even watch a movie before my battery runs out on my laptop," Goodman said.

    I used to travel continuously for my business purposes; if I'm on a plane, that's some of the very rare stable peace and quiet that I can find for my favorite diversions, namely reading or programming. Every time some marketing geek starts bandying around the idea that their new battery technology will allow us to watch a full movie on a single charge, I have to wonder at people's stupidity.

    If that's the whole reason you brought a laptop on that plane, you would be much better served to pick up a cheap portable DVD player, and keep your laptop in its case, or rediscover what people used to do before laptops: read. When you pull out that DVD player, or your laptop, for that matter, pretty soon the people next to you start getting nosy. Then they start getting intrusive, because you have presented them with a topic of discussion. Pretty soon, you're having conversations, and that treasured, sacred peace and quiet is shattered with forced contact with other people on the plane.

    Call me a snob, but my first response to someone on a plane talking to me is to start methodically weighing the legal consequences of chucking them out the nearest emergency exit.

  • by ThoreauHD ( 213527 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @08:38PM (#6855365)
    http://hondacorporate.com/fcx/index.html

    Laptops are nice, but I'm not choking to death on laptop fumes. Auto's first.
  • by magarity ( 164372 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @09:54PM (#6855809)
    Now if only the manufacturers could get together to decide upon standard sizes for fuel cells instead of the current completely incompatible array of laptop battery formats in use. Even of there is large, medium, and small formats for fuel cells, it will be a HUGE help to the consumer as third party competition will keep the prices down... which is of course why industries resist standards in such things.
  • by bbc22405 ( 576022 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @11:17PM (#6856348)
    "Overhyped laptop fuel cells"? That is right on the money. The first market for small fuel cells is not in laptop computers. There are too many places where you can plug in a laptop to (a) avoid using the batteries and (b) recharge your batteries. People will be willing to stop by Computers-R-Us to pick up another 10-pack of methanol capsules, when instead they can just plug in just about anywhere? No way.

    I predict that the first and best market for small fuel cells, and where the technology will incubate until it is ready to spread wider, is in hand tools for construction workers (e.g. house framers). They already use tools that chew through multiple battery packs in a workday. They also already have tools (nailers) that are both battery powered and have small fuel tanks that are used to generate small explosions. They are ready and willing to deal with fuel cells that might be noisy, hot, smelly, and perhaps even slightly dangerous. I'm sure they would welcome a tool that chewed through cheapy single-use methanol tanks, rather than having to carefully rotate through an assortment of battery packs every day, sometimes at a site without electrical service.

  • Consumables! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RealErmine ( 621439 ) <.ten.elohdrow. .ta. .ecremmoc.> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @09:45AM (#6858815)
    Expect laptop system prices to eventually drop because of this technology. Any business knows that consumables are the real way to make a profit. Just like your inkjet printer that cost barely more than the refill cartidge (just so you don't just go buy a new printer with a starter ink cartridge), your laptop will cost a couple hundred dollars while its "official" and proprietary fuel cell refill will cost about $45.

    In the long run, you'll spend much more on refills than on the original hardware, but the initial purchase will seem cheap.
  • by Billy Donahue ( 29642 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @07:38PM (#6864767)
    Is EVERYBODY here just responding to the last
    crappy Terminator movie? Recap: cyborg Ahhnold
    (Republican!) throws his "fuel cell" out the car
    window and as he drives away, it causes a massive
    nukular (Republican spelling) explosion in the
    desert.

    I remember seeing that and thinking of how
    screwed up it was to see a republican cyborg
    driving a gas-guzzler and trying to scare America
    away from cleaner energy sources. That movie is
    the only contact most Americans will have with
    fuel cells, and they blew it (literally) for
    decades to come, I imagine...

    Judging from the response of the Slashdotters so
    far, I'd say the collective brain damage was
    pretty severe!!

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