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Cars that go 5000 miles between fill-ups electric power plants you buy like appliances a world with radically reduced pollution and a better standard of living Sounds like a sci-fi pipe dream - if it werent for all these automobile and power companies spending billions to make it realby Jacques LeslieIm at the headquarters of Ballard Power Systems in Burnaby a suburb of Vancouver and my big fuel cell moment is about to occur Following the example of the premier of British Columbia the mayor of Chicago and the chair of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority I am going to drink the exhaust from Ballards prototype fuel cell municipal bus This is less foolhardy than it sounds since the only emission from the fuel cell engine is water For this reason many people think that fuel cells can change the world At Ballard the exhaust-drinking routine has grown so tiresome that when I ask for a sip Paul Lancaster Ballards treasurer doesnt even offer me a glass he suggests I cup my hands under the buss exhaust pipe The pipe points straight down presumably because its effluence is not a noxious gas that must be spewed into the atmosphere in hopes that it will dissipate I bend over and within a few seconds I collect several teaspoons of warm clear liquid As I begin to drink I try to imagine a mountain stream but the water is disappointingly bland Like distilled water Lancaster explains and I realize that what Im drinking is in a sense exactly that - the pure product of the union of hydrogen the element that powers fuel cells and oxygen in the engine In some engine designs even the exhaust water becomes an asset recirculated to aid in internal processes One tenet of the coming hydrogen age according to businessman-cum-fuel cell visionary Joe Maceda is that pollution is a measure of inefficiency and inefficiency is lost profit After decades of
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