A fuel cell is very similar to a battery, but instead of recharging like a traditional battery, a fuel cell is refueled with hydrogen. Traditional batteries store chemical reactants (lithium, or other material) used to create electricity inside of the battery, whereas a fuel cell creates electricity by passing external chemical reactants (hydrogen and oxygen) through the fuel cell. The fuel cell will continue producing electricity as long as there is hydrogen to utilize (Source). Visit the Department of Energy for a fuel cell animation.
In transportation applications, fuel cells theoretically have greater potential than batteries, because they take only minutes to refuel, travel longer distances on one fill, and don’t have the limitations that heavy batteries present.
Yes. For over 50 years hydrogen has been used for commercial and industrial purposes with a very safe record. One of the natural benefits of hydrogen that illustrates its safety, is that it is 14 times lighter than air and disperses 6 times more quickly than even natural gas should an accident or leakage occur. Hydrogen is a non-toxic, colorless, odorless gas that requires sensors to detect. A strict set of codes and standards are being developed for both infrastructure and vehicle applications by the Department of Energy, National Fire Protection Association, and others, to ensure the safe use of hydrogen in the transportation sector. For more details on hydrogen safety, visit the Department of Energy’s publication on Hydrogen safety.
Filling an FCEV can be done in less than three minutes, which is similar to traditional gasoline stations.
No, FCEVs are zero emission vehicles. The only byproducts are water and heat.
This question will depend on the specific make and model of the FCEV, but the goal for many automakers is 300 miles. The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, the first mass-produced FCEV being released at the end of 2014, advertises a 265 mile range.
Most hydrogen stations are located in California and have been developed as part of research and development projects. California has committed $46 million to develop a hydrogen fueling network. For all hydrogen locations across the country, use the Alternative Fuel Data Center’s Station Locator.
A FCEV is similar to a battery electric vehicle in that they both use an electric drive train. However, fuel cells use hydrogen stored onboard the vehicle to create electricity instead of storing electricity in a battery from an outside electrical source (charging outlet). The main difference is the source from which their electricity is created.
FCEVs have no torque curve so they accelerate very quickly, whereas a combustion engine has a lag between the touch of the accelerator and maximum torque to allow for the engine to build power. Top speed is expected to be similar to an internal combustion engine. The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell has a top speed of 100 mph.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the planet – however, it doesn’t occur isolated in the natural environment and has to be stripped from other molecules like methane or water.