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Methanol fuel cell startup eyes hybrid market

A fast-growing Silicon Valley start-up firm is aiming to put its methanol-based fuel cells in electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars.

Oorja Protonics, which sells its fuel cells to Nissan Motor Co, is working to have a product that can be used as a range-extender in pure electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, Chief Executive Sanjiv Malhotra said in an interview on Friday.
“We would have something in 18 to 24 months,” Malhotra said, adding that the company is working “very aggressively” on such a range-extending fuel cell.

Malhotra said the initial difficulty he faced when he started the company in 2005 was to find an appropriate fuel for the fuel cell. He settled on methanol as it was cheap and easily available.

“Fuel cells are synonymous with hydrogen” he said. ” The biggest challenge I was looking to solve was the hydrogen problem.”

Methanol is an alternative fuel that is derived from various sources including wood, grass, landfills, natural gas and coal. It’s a common antifreeze used in vehicle windshield fuel.


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