By Andrew Liszewski
Fuel Cell technologies definitely hold a lot of promise, but it looks like the first devices to hit the market are probably going to only appeal to early adopters. The HydroPak from Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies can produce up to 25 watts of power with a combination of replaceable solid fuel cartridges and about a pint of water. That equals about 270 watt-hours of energy which should be enough to recharge a full size laptop about 5 times.
And while the HydroPak produces no exhaust and runs nearly silent, there are unfortunately a few downsides. For one, the half-pound replacement fuel cartridges cost about $20. According to Peter Glaskowski over at Crave, that means a single kilowatt hour from the HydroPak costs $74, where as the same kilowatt hour from a wall outlet costs 10 cents. The HydroPak’s $400 price tag isn’t that expensive, and the unit only weighs about 4 pounds, but for the same amount of money you can buy a considerably more powerful gas generator if you’re looking to use the device as a source of reliable backup power.
Finally, while the HydroPak produces no exhaust, the fuel cartridges use sodium-borohydride which is actually a mildly hazardous chemical. As the fuel is used, the byproducts of the reaction are returned to the sealed cartridge so it should be safe, but there’s always the risk of something happening, particularly in the hands of Joe-consumer. However, there always has to be a first generation of every product, and Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies hopes to have the HydroPak available to consumers sometime this year, which is an important first step.