Technology such as air conditioning, winter heaters, laptop computers and mobile phones place a heavy strain on car batteries, forcing drivers to keep their car engines running.
This is environmentally damaging, and opens the opportunity for fuel cells to provide a 'green' power source, according to Ferdinand Panik, head of DaimlerChrysler's fuel cell project.
Speaking at the Economist Conferences' Automotive Conference in Geneva, he said fuel cell vehicles need to offer drivers additional benefits to secure a long-term future, and suggested a unique selling point could be their ability to power other in-car technology.
A fuel cell, for example, could act in tandem with an in-car timer system to turn on air conditioning or heaters, or clear a frosted windscreen before a driver even gets into the car.
Panik added that fuel cells still require substantial development to reduce their costs, weight and volume, improve their reliability and lifetime, and solve problems with cooling and cold starts.
But overall, he remains convinced that: 'Hydrogen is the fuel for fleet applications and today's zero-emission requirements. Fuel cell vehicles will gain with high probability a significant market share in the next 20 years, leaving very soon the phase of niche applications on their way to becoming a serious contender to cars powered by internal combustion engines.' (April 2000)