TOKYO (AP) -- Hitachi said Tuesday it was working with a British research organization to develop everyday uses for the Japanese manufacturer's new fuel cell, which creates electricity from methanol.
The organization, the Centre for Process Innovation Ltd., carries out research, runs projects and develops businesses in fuel cells and other technology.
It is already testing fuel cells that provide power for road signs that light up and a lighthouse.
The fuel cells that power a car made by Honda Motor Co. run on hydrogen. After combining with the oxgen in the air to create energy, these fuel cells emit water. But hydrogen can be explosive.
Hitachi's Liquid Energy fuel cell uses methanol, which is less dangerous, even though it emits some carbon dioxide. Still, it pollutes less than conventional forms of energy, said Graham Hillier, the Centre's director of low carbon energy.
The box-like 7-kilogram (15-pound) 11-liter (3-gallon) Liquid Energy, developed in December, is relatively compact for a fuel cell, measuring 32.5 centimeters (13 inches) by 22 centimeters (9 inches) by 21 centimeters (8 inches).
It produces only a small amount of energy. A full tank provides 120 watts -- for an hour and a half. To power a car, 300 such fuel cells would be needed.
Under the latest deal, Tokyo-based Hitachi Ltd. and the Centre will carry out studies together to assess its performance for security cameras, broadcast and other applications, both sides said at the British Embassy in Tokyo.
In the future, the cells could be used to power a home or laptop computers, Hitachi says.
"Hitachi has excellent technology," said Hillier. "Both partners believe that this technology is the safest and most efficient way to address the early stage fuel cell market."
A major obstacle for fuel cells' becoming widespread is cost. Hitachi High-Technologies Corp. Vice President Mitsuhiro Hayashi said it still costs 1 million yen ($10,000) each, although mass production will bring prices down. Hitachi hopes to make it a commercial product in 2010.