Fuel Cell Technology

Hydrogen Cells for Green Energy

29 March, 2024

The emergence of fuel cell technology over electric vehicles (EVs) has been a topic of increasing debate and analysis within the automotive industry and among energy experts. While both technologies aim to address environmental concerns and reduce reliance on traditional hydro-carbon-based fuels, they each have distinct advantages and limitations.

Fuel cell technology, particularly hydrogen fuel cells, has gained traction due to several factors:

  • Zero Emissions: Fuel cells produce electricity through an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, resulting in only water vapor as a byproduct. This makes fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) truly zero-emission vehicles, offering a solution to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Longer Range: FCVs typically have longer driving ranges compared to battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Hydrogen fuel tanks can be refilled quickly, similar to refueling a conventional gasoline vehicle, offering drivers greater convenience and alleviating range anxiety.
  • Quick Refueling: Refueling a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is faster than recharging an EV battery. It takes just a few minutes to fill a hydrogen tank, whereas recharging an EV battery can take significantly longer, depending on the charging infrastructure and the vehicle’s battery capacity.
  • High Energy Density: Hydrogen has a high energy density by weight, making it a potentially efficient

However, there are also challenges and limitations to fuel cell technology compared to EVs:

  • Infrastructure: Establishing a widespread hydrogen infrastructure, including production, distribution, and refueling stations, is a significant challenge. Currently, hydrogen infrastructure is limited compared to the extensive network of electric charging stations for EVs.
  • Cost: The cost of producing, storing, and transporting hydrogen is relatively high compared to electricity. Additionally, fuel cell vehicles tend to be more expensive to manufacture than EVs due to the complexity of the fuel cell system.
  • Energy Efficiency: The overall efficiency of hydrogen production, distribution, and utilization in fuel cell vehicles is lower compared to the direct use of electricity in EVs. This is mainly due to energy losses at each stage of the hydrogen supply chain.
  • Limited Availability of Hydrogen: While hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it is mostly found in compound form (e.g., water, hydrocarbons), requiring energy-intensive processes to extract and produce pure hydrogen.

Despite these challenges, fuel cell technology continues to advance, driven by ongoing research, investment, and government support. For example, GM and Honda recently announced the start of production at their 50-50 joint venture production facility, FCSM. FCSM is the first large-scale manufacturing joint venture to build fuel cells. In some specific use cases, such as heavy-duty transportation and long-distance travel, fuel cells may offer advantages over battery electric vehicles.

Another leader in this space is ANGI Energy Systems LLC, is a U.S. based manufacturer that has bet on hydrogen refueling locations. However, the competition between these two technologies is likely to persist as both industries strive to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and address infrastructure challenges.

Ultimately, the choice between fuel cell vehicles and electric vehicles will depend on factors such as driving needs, infrastructure availability, and technological advancements in both sectors.

Key Components of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Car
Source Alternative Fuel Cells Data Center https://afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/fuel_cell.html