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Automaker plans fuel cell range extender by 2012

Volvo has revealed that it is working on a fuel cell to extend an electric car's operating range by up to 250 kilometers.

The company said October 27 that it aimed to have the technology ready to test in one of its C30 DRIVe Electric vehicles by 2012.

Its fuel cell, developed in partnership with Powercell Sweden, uses a reformer capable of breaking down petrol into hydrogen gas, which is then converted into electrical energy to power the electric motor.

Volvo said that using fuel in this manner would extend the car's range without any emissions of harmful gases such as carbon oxide, nitrogen oxides or sulfur oxides, with the end products being electricity, water and a small amount of carbon dioxide.

"We have just taken the first steps and it is naturally too early to talk about market introduction of electric cars with Range Extenders. The industrial decision will come after we have learned more about fuel cells and the opportunities they offer," said Volvo boss Stefan Jacoby.

The Swedish automaker confirmed last month that it intends to put an all-electric vehicle in production by next year, although this latest announcement suggests that, like many other automakers, it is concerned by the range limitations of such vehicles.

In the absence of dramatically improved battery technology, range extenders such as fuel cells or the gasoline generator used in the Chevrolet Volt could hold the answer to driving adoption of electric vehicles.