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A step forward for fuel cells

GENERAL MOTORS and ExxonMobil announced last month that they have developed a unit to generate hydrogen from gasoline, thereby allowing fuel-cell vehicles—which run on hydrogen to burn a familiar, readily available fuel. General Motors plans to demonstrate a vehicle using the new gasoline processor within 18 months.

The company said it views the hydrogen fuel cell as the car 'engine' of the future, but there are commercial challenges in providing hydrogen refuelling stations, developing safe fuel tanks and agreeing industry-wide specifications. The gasoline processor avoids these difficulties.

General Motors and ExxonMobil have collaborated for three years in the research programme, which has resulted in the construction of a gasoline processor with an efficiency of over 80%. They are planning a laboratory demonstration of a larger version of the processor, linked to a fuel cell stack producing 25 kW of power, by year-end.

Vehicles with gasoline fuel cells 'can be in consumers' hands within the next 10 years', General Motors said.

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