Fuel cells are in some ways the ultimate in energy technology. Liquidslike methanol or gases such as methane or hydrogen are passed through acatalytic membrane to produce electricity and/or heat on the spot.
With one of these, large amounts of electricity can be produced ondemand, instead of at a centralized power station. In Japan, Osaka Gasinstalls fuel cells in homes that convert 80 percent of the energy injected into them into household power and heat. The grid generally is only around 30 percent to 35 percent efficient due to transmission and conversion losses.
To top it off, fuels cells by their nature also store power and can circumvent the problems –long charge times, weight, high prices — associated with batteries. Oorja Protonics, a startup in Fremont, California, has created a fuel cell that provides all the energy a forklift will need for an eight-hour shift. A fill-uptakes about five minutes. Traditional forklifts run on lead acidbatteries, which take hours to charge and need to get swapped every four hours.