Only an idea existed two years ago when the former Chrysler Corporation proposed that gasoline could be turned into electric energy with a fuel cell.
The Jeep Commander runs on electric power, but the fuel cell "powertrain" is not functional. DaimlerChrysler plans to have a working methanol, hybrid fuel cell system in the Commander by the end of 1999.
Fuel cells create their own electricity. Oxygen from the air and hydrogen fuel are combined in a chemical reaction that produces electricity and water. Overall vehicle efficiency has the potential to be improved by 50 percent and emissions can range from zero to just 10 percent of today's vehicles.
The question is, "Where does the vehicle get hydrogen fuel?" While pure hydrogen is the ideal fuel in terms of fuel cell system efficiency, ease of operation and the complete elimination of emissions, hydrogen fuel cannot be found at the corner filling station. Hence, fuel cell researchers looked into ways to extract hydrogen from the most commonly available transportation fuel-gasoline.
"We knew we were taking the most difficult path when we chose to pursue gasoline reformation and we did prove that part true," Robertson added. "Through that process, we're more certain that methanol will be the best fuel to power fuel cells when they are introduced into the marketplace around 2004."