Designline, a New Zealand coach building company known for its
buses, is building a prototype commuter bus powered by a unique
, developed in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and Cal Tech. The fuel cell, produced by U.S. based Alchemy
Ltd, uses magnesium as its catalyst material for a chemical reaction that generates electricity. Metal-air fuel cells (MAFC) use metal and oxygen to generate electricity. The more common PEM (Proton-Exchange Membrane) fuel cells utilize platinum as a catalyst, significantly increasing their cost, and combine
with air. An electrolytic liquid, consisting of magnesium and salt water, is pumped in to the fuel cell, and when exhausted pumped back out in to a storage tank, where the fluid is "recharged" so it can be reused in the fuel cell. The approach is attractive since magnesium is one of the most common minerals on earth, as opposed to the rare platinum. The company expects to unveil a working prototype of the fuel cell by December this year and have it in a bus by March 2007.
[Source: The New Zealand Herald]