If all goes according to plan, Coleman Powermate will introduce the world’s first practical home fuel cell this month. But don’t look for it at Home Depot: It’ll only be available at www.colemanpowermate.com.
The AirGen Fuel Cell Generator is conceived as a backup generator, but at $7,995 the only buyers will be those who really need a secondary power source, perhaps for medical reasons. The 1.2-kilowatt unit could power a computer, phone, fax, and light for 8 to 10 hours before refueling. And since the only byproduct is water, it can be safely positioned indoors, unlike traditional generators.
Like all fuel cells, AirGen generates electricity from the chemical interaction between oxygen from the air and hydrogen. While much fuel cell development has focused on stripping hydrogen from natural gas or propane, AirGen requires pure, bottled hydrogen. It took Coleman two years to create a distribution system and to satisfy regulators (a Department of Transportation ruling was imminent at press time), but the company is confident a $100 refill could be delivered anywhere in the United States within two days.
AirGen is likely just the beginning. Vancouver-based Ballard Power Sys-tems, which made the internal fuel cell,
is talking with manufacturers about everything from fuel cell tools to kitchen appliances. The hydrogen race is on.