Toshiba delays first fuel cell product launch

Delays expected for the launch of direct methanol fuel cells

Toshiba will begin selling its first direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) battery chargers later than expected after it ran into problems securing certain components for them, it said Monday.

DMFC battery chargers are portable power sources used to recharge other gadgets instead of plugging them into the wall. Toshiba's next fuel cell products will be embedded DMFCs in phones and laptops.

In a presentation earlier this year Atsutoshi Nishida, Toshiba's president, said it would be released before the end of March but the company now says it won't be available until later in the year.

DMFCs produce electricity from a reaction between methanol, water and air. The only by-products are a small amount of water vapor and carbon dioxide, so DMFCs are often seen as a greener source of energy than traditional batteries. Another advantage is that they can be replenished with a new cartridge of methanol in seconds.

Companies have been working for several years on development of DMFCs that are small enough to fit inside portable electronics gadgets to replace the Lithium Ion batteries currently used.

Last year Toshiba demonstrated a working prototype of a DMFC-powered cell phone and earlier this year said it planned to put DMFC packs for cell phones and laptop PCs on sale in its 2009 fiscal year, which runs from April to March 2010.

A first step towards those products was the DMFC battery pack, which would be used to recharge other devices. However problems getting the unspecified components has delayed that by a few months.

The company would not say which components it had problems obtaining.

Despite the delay in the charger Toshiba remains committed to its original schedule for the DMFC packs for cell phones and laptop PCs, it said.

Toshiba is targeting annual sales of DMFC devices of ¥100 billion ($US1 billion) by 2015.

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