Automotive Industry Faces Fuel-Cell Challenges, Expert Says

By Deborah Austin Of fuel-cell technology's three sectors, the automotive sector eventually will grow the largest -- but it also faces the biggest challenges -- says Atakan Ozbek, vice president of energy research at technology research consultancy Allied Business Intelligence Inc. (ABI), Oyster Bay, N.Y. Automotive challenges include too-high prices (a hurdle for all sectors) and infrastructure -- networks of hydrogen stations needed to fuel such cells for widespread automotive use -- says Ozbek, author of the recent ABI study "Fuel Cell Industry Competitive Analysis: Defining the Strategies of Fuel Cell Industry Players." In the automotive sector, ABI predicts, fuel cells won't be commercially competitive with current energy-generating technology until about 2010. But the stationary sector -- which already serves customers such as financial and data centers needing outage protection at any cost -- could achieve commercial competitiveness by 2005. The portable sector -- powering everything from PDAs to lawnmowers -- could see competitiveness by 2003. That's because fuel-cell energy doesn't cost much more than energy from batteries now powering such devices, says Ozbek.

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