It seems a bit counterintuitive,
but electric cars powered by gasoline-fed fuel cells could be an important step
in the direction of clean energy.
Gunter Luepke says a solid-oxide
fuel cell car could double the gas mileage of today's internal-combustion
"The efficiency of a fuel cell is
very high; it's on the order of 60 percent," he explained. "The internal
combustion engine is less than 30 percent. If you use a fuel cell, you would
gain a factor of two or more in efficiency."
The solid-oxide fuel cells can
take a variety of fuels, including gaseous hydrogen and just about any
hydrocarbon, too. The well-established global infrastructure to dispense gasoline
gives the solid-oxide fuel cell technology an immediate advantage for
automotive use, too.
"The transition to very clean cars is going to be a
very slow process," Erik Spahr said. "If we can take advantage of the fuel
infrastructure we have now, and do it more efficiently and slowly transition to
cleaner fuels, that's probably going to be a workable and realistic approach."