Hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles may be taking a backseat to electric cars, but that doesn't mean that the hydrogen economy has gone by the wayside completely—at least, not if Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies has anything to say about it. The company is exhibiting the Hydrofill, a fuel cell system for charging small gadgets, at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The Hydrofill works by extracting hydrogen gas from water and and storing it in so-called Hydrostik cartridges that contain a hydrogen-absorbing metal alloy. The cartridges are stored in Horizon's MiniPAK universal portable power charger, which can juice up anything that requires 3 watts of power or less—a category that includes smartphones, MP3 players, and GPS systems. The MiniPAK draws hydrogen from the cartridges to make an electrical current. To gather hydrogen, users just plug the Hydrofill into an outlet or attach a small solar panel or wind turbine.
The device, scheduled to go on sale later this year, sounds promising enough, but will anyone actually buy it? We're guessing it will be fairly expensive, and there is no shortage of portable electronic chargers already on the market. Granted, fuel cells are capable of storing a lot of energy, but why would someone go for the Hydrofill and attach a separate solar panel when they could just buy a solar-powered battery charger and be done with it? At the very least, the Hydrofill might begin to make people more comfortable with the idea of hydrogen power, but it's not likely to make a big dent in the portable charger market.