KDDI:  Fuel Cells in 2007; Where's NEC?
KDDI: Fuel Cells in 2007; Where's NEC?

KDDI: Fuel Cells in 2007; Where's NEC?

KDDI: Fuel Cells in 2007; Where's NEC?

The Nikkei reported on Saturday that KDDI aims to commercialize fuel cells for keitai using Hitachi and Toshiba technology by 2007; this is supposed to be at least two years behind claims often made by Japan’s mobile-phone leader NEC that it will have fuel cells ready for commercialization for mobile phones by next year at the latest.

NEC has been quiet recently about it own fuel cell technologies.

The company made quite a few splashes last year with prototype methanol fuel-cell technologies aimed a replacing lithium-ion batteries for both laptops and mobile phones. But these PR messages were all a year ago — and now is about the time NEC was supposed to have something commercial on the market, for PCs at least.

Meanwhile, just about all the famous suspects you can imagine seem to be a few tweaks away from from having fuel cells — to power mobile-phone TV tuners for hours and hours and hours — commercially available.

In a hack piece on Saturday, Japan’s Nikkei reports its secret sources at an undisclosed company have said that Hitachi and Toshiba technologies will enable up to four hours of TV watching on a keitai. Wow!

The handset, according to the Nikkei, would use one of the standard methanol fuel cell batteries now under development.

The Nikkei says Hitachi, Toshiba, and KDDI will have prototypes out by next year (It will be interesting to see what’s up at the CEATEC show this October — Ed.).

Of course, the fact that Toshiba is one of the partners is of little surprise. A few weeks ago, actually at the end of June, the company announced that had developed the world’s smallest direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) system, sized at 22mm x 56mm x 9.1mm (4.5mm at the thinnest part) and weighing in at 8.5g.

DMFCs work by directly supplying methanol to the fuel pole of the fuel cell, and use methanol at 100-percent density; the company claimed batteries would be on the market in 2005.

The fuel cell had a maximum 100-milliwatt output with the 1.2 volts necessary to power a mobile phone produced by three sets of electrodes placed on a solid electrolytic membrane. Toshiba said the cell could run a portable device such as a mobile music player for about 20 hours.

Both Hitachi and Fujitsu have demonstrated fuel-cell technologies that are supposed to be near to commercialisation, and at least Casio and Sony are known to have development programs.

— The Editors