Frequently Asked Questions About Fuel Cells

Questions and Answers About Fuel Cells

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we receive about fuel cells and fuel cell components. Looking for answers to other questions? Contact us.

What is a fuel cell?

A fuel cell is an energy conversion device that combines fuel and air to produce electrical power directly. Fuel cells offer the promise of high efficiency and zero emissions when compared to conventional technologies. If pure hydrogen is used as a fuel, then only heat, electricity, and water are produced.

How does a fuel cell differ from traditional methods of energy generation?

Unlike internal combustion generators, fuel cells convert chemical energy directly into electricity without an intermediate conversion into mechanical power. This avoids combustion and the production of carbon dioxide.

How is a fuel cell different than a battery?

Unlike a battery, a fuel cell does not store energy. Instead, it converts energy from one form to another (much like an engine) and will continue to operate as long as fuel is fed to it.

What are the benefits of fuel cells?

Fuel cells can provide clean energy and emit no pollution. Benefits of using fuel cells include:

  • Safe and quiet performance
  • Higher energy efficiency than diesel or gas engines
  • Clean, zero emissions
  • High reliability
  • Ease of operation

What types of fuel cells are available?

There are five main types of fuel cells that are defined by the type of electrolyte each uses. These include:

  • Proton exchange membranes (PEM)
  • Alkaline (liquid or membrane electrolyte)
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Molten carbonate
  • Solid oxide

What are the different types of PEM fuel cells?

There are three main types of PEM fuel cells. The difference between them is the fuel source, which can include:

  • Pure hydrogen from methane reforming or water electrolysis
  • Reformed hydrogen obtained from methanol or a hydrocarbon such as methane or propane
  • Methanol converted in a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) system to hydrogen without the use of a reformer

Where are fuel cells used?

There are four key market segments that use fuel cells:

  • Light-duty vehicles (automobiles)
  • Heavy-duty vehicles (buses, trucks, trains, and ships)
  • Material-handling vehicles (fork lifts)
  • Distributed backup power (grid reliability)

This list is expected to grow as new applications are developed.

Where can I learn more about fuel cells?