Fuel cells have been around for over 150 years and offer a source of energy that is inexhaustible, environmentally safe and always available. So why aren't they being used everywhere already? Until recently, it has been because of the cost. The cells were too expansive to make. That has now changed.
In the United States, several pieces of legislation have promoted the current explosion in hydrogen fuel cell development: namely, the congressional Hydrogen Future Act of 1996 and several state laws promoting zero emission levels for cars. Worldwide, different types of fuel cells have been developed with extensive public funding. The United States alone has sunk more than one billion dollars into fuel-cell research in the last thirty years.
In 1998, Iceland announced plans to create a hydrogen economy in cooperation with German car maker Daimler Benz and Canadian fuel cell developer Ballard Power Systems. The 10-year plan would convert all transportation vehicles, including Iceland's fishing fleet, over to fuel-cell-powered vehicles. In March, 1999, Iceland, Shell Oil, Daimler Chrysler, and Norsk Hydro formed a company to further develop Iceland's hydrogen economy.
In February, 1999, Europe's first public commercial hydrogen fuel station for cars and trucks opened for business in Hamburg, Germany. In April, 1999, Daimler Chrysler unveiled the liquid hydrogen vehicle NECAR 4. With a top speed of 90 mph and a 280-mile tank capacity, the car wowed the press. The company plans to have fuel-cell vehicles in limited production by the year 2004. By that time, Daimler Chrysler will have spent $1.4 billion more on fuel-cell technology development.
In August, 1999, Singapore physicists announced a new hydrogen storage method of alkali doped carbon nanotubes that would increase hydrogen storage and safety. A Taiwanese company, San Yang, is developing the first fuel cell powered motorcycle.