General Motors has developed the Chevrolet S-10 fuel cell pick-up which uses an on-board reformer to extract hydrogen from petrol to produce electricity.
The great advantage of the new technology is its ability to accelerate adoption of fuel cell vehicles because the infrastructure for petrol supply is already in place on every filling station.
In the longer term, GM foresees fuel reformers that convert petrol to hydrogen moving from cars to the home, office, or petrol station forecourt.
Larry Burns, GM's vice president of research and development, said: 'In most cases, you already have natural gas, water and electricity coming into your home or place of business. To create hydrogen all that is missing is a natural gas reformer or an electrolyser.'
How it works
The Chevrolet S-10 fuel cell is equipped with a fuel processor that reforms low-sulphur petrol on-board.
The fuel is mixed with air and water, and then passed over catalysts that separate the hydrogen from the carbon.
The resulting hydrogen is then filtered to the fuel cell stack where it combines with oxygen in the air to generate electricity. GM claims the system improves the engine efficiency by 50% over a conventional internal combustion engine, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by half.