DETROIT -- Will the future have engine-driven cars that get electrical power from 42-volt fuel cells instead of stodgy alternators or generators?
Engineering leaders on a panel at the SAE World Congress last week were split on the answer to that question.
Under one concept, the hydrogen-powered fuel cells could become the power source for today's electrical needs and emerging drive-by-wire technologies.
Vehicles are building up an electrical appetite and are expected to demand as much as 8 to 10 kilowatts an hour within 10 years. By comparison, the ordinary home in Japan uses 1 kilowatt an hour and American homes average about 2 kilowatts an hour, though there is much higher peak usage.
"Cars are becoming very hungry for power, particularly as things move off of the drivetrain and into electrical power," said Frank Preli Jr., vice president of engineering and technology at UTC Fuel Cells.