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To the Editor:
The discussion in "Sold on Fuel Cells" (January/February) reveals the potential of fuel cells. There are two more attributes which need to be brought to light, one positive and one negative.
On the positive side, the American Academy of Science created the LaserCell, capable of generating its own hydrogen and oxygen just by putting electricity and water into the fuel cell; instead of generating the hydrogen and oxygen fuels by renewable energy at a remote location.
The negative aspect of fuel cells is their inefficiency relative to battery storage systems. The following data is based on an article in Solar Mind and a letter to me from Joan Ogden, of Princeton University.
If 100 kilowatt hours (kwh) of electricity were put into the fuel cell, 70 kwh of hydrogen would come out. The hydrogen would then power a fuel cell hooked to an electric motor yielding 49 kwh of motive energy.
If 100 kwh of electricity were put into a battery, you would get 77 kwh out of the battery. That energy would then go to an electric motor, yielding 70 kwh of motive energy.
With technology always advancing, both fuel cells and electric systems will become more efficient, though the difference between them may or may not change. Each of these power systems are promising and should be advanced, but lets use the system that is most efficient and least polluting at the time.
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Last updated: 7 April 1999