LAPTOP-COMPUTER users are still slaves to batteries that fade after a few hours. Manfred Stefener, managing director and founder of SFC Smart Fuel Cell in Munich, is leading the way to an alternative: small fuel cartridges that use methanol to generate electricity, emitting only water vapor, carbon dioxide, and heat. Stefener’s company and German laptop maker Medion have partnered to develop and commercialize an energy docking station, which will provide up to 10 hours of power before needing a new fuel cartridge. While it will add some bulk—the product will be docked under the laptop—“They are delivering where other companies have not,” says Robert Hockaday, founder of Energy Related Devices, which is also developing micro fuel cells. Stefener,a chemical engineer, is working on business questions too, such as how customers can easily obtain replacement cartridges. The company is also commercializing its fuel cell system to power other applications, such as traffic signals. And Stefener says the company is working on a fuel cell that can be integrated right into the laptop, avoiding the bulky docking station.