Motorists could drive around the world on just one gallon of petrol, according to researchers at the University of Keele. Kevin Kendall and his colleagues have developed a clean, efficient electric vehicle that uses a solid oxide fuel cell to convert the chemical energy of petrol or diesel directly into electrical energy, just like a battery.
The technology, which is much cleaner than today's cars, has one great advantage over other electric vehicle systems - it can run on conventional fuels. The researchers say that the first practical use of the technology could be to charge a car's battery and power its stereo and electronics.
At a recent conference held in Nantes, France, the car manufacturer BMW expressed interest in the work. At present, manufacturers are concentrating on a rival technology - solid polymer fuel cells. These cells are fuelled by hydrogen and emit no noxious gases; the only by-product is water. However, hydrogen is explosive, and Kendall believes that conventional fuels would be more manageable.