Electric car gets a push from petrol

July 17, 1998

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.

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