Many analysts expect fuel cells for consumer electronic devices to begin appearing next year in Japan. The betting is that the first to reach the market will be Toshiba, which is demonstrating a prototype of a methanol-powered cell this week at a trade show in Hanover, Germany. Toshiba says the cell could be sold next year with laptops.

Some 200 million to 500 million of the small cells, sometimes called microcells, might be sold annually by 2011, according to Allied Business Intelligence, a market research company in Oyster Bay, N.Y., that tracks new technology. Annual revenue to the fuel cell companies could be as much as $5 billion, said Atakan Ozbek, Allied’s director of energy research. More here.