Getting power to the people: technological dramaturgy and the quest for the electrochemical engine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite over 50 years of concerted effort by government and industry since the end of the Second World War, expectations for a cheap, durable commercial fuel cell have been repeatedly dashed. I argue this is so mainly because researchers have historically conceived the fuel cell as a universal chemical energy converter, a kind of super battery that combined the best aspects of battery and heat engine. Dramatic demonstrations of notional and prototype hydrogen fuel cells in controlled conditions attracted short-term investments in further research and inspired hopes that long-lived and affordable commercial fuel cells using hydrocarbons could be developed. However, building such an electrochemical engine proved a complex and costly process, one that few sponsors were willing to support for long in the absence of rapid progress. I explore these dynamics in a comparative study of the fuel cell programs of General Electric and Ballard Power Systems.

LanguageEnglish
Pages49-68
Number of pages20
JournalHistory and Technology
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2009

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Cells
Dramaturgy
Battery
Prototype
Controlled
Heat
Energy
Hydrogen
Sponsor
Industry
Comparative Study
Second World War
Notional
Government

Keywords

  • battery electric vehicle
  • fuel cell
  • proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell
  • zero emission vehicle

Cite this

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Getting power to the people : technological dramaturgy and the quest for the electrochemical engine. / Eisler, Matthew.

In: History and Technology, Vol. 25, No. 1, 25.02.2009, p. 49-68.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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