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Home > FUEL CELLS - a brief overview

Fuel cells are a hot topic in vehicle design at the moment and almost everybody has heard of them, but how do they work? This is a brief overview of the hydrogen fuel cell concept.

A fuel cell is an electrochemical energy conversion device, the same as a battery,Hyrogen fuel cell layout, Image from Stanford University Fuel Cell Researchthe difference being that a battery has chemicals sealed inside and when these are used up the battery is dead. In a fuel cell the chemicals can be topped up, generally with hydrogen and oxygen (the oxygen coming from air). However if a reformer (a device which converts hydrocarbon or alcohol fuels into hydrogen) is used natural gas, propane or methanol can be used instead of hydrogen but the efficiency is reduced.

There are several different fuel cell systems, however the proton exchange membrane fuel cell is the most likely to be found in a fuel cell powered vehicle. When the hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel cell is converted into water electricity is produced in the process this electricity comes in the form of a direct current voltage that can power electric motors which in turn drive the wheels of a vehicle and power its other electrical systems. A benefit of fuel cell powered vehicles is that they are extremely environmentally friendly when compared to other vehicles.

Some of the many vehicles powered in one way or another by fuel cells are:

ENV Hydrogen Bike

Bombadier Embrio concept

Hyundai Greenspeed Gator concept

Jeep Treo concept

Honda Kiwami

Mercedes Mojave Runner concept

Peugeot H2O concept

rMoto electric superbike concept

GM AUTOnomy concept

Toyota MTRC

Morgan LIFECar concept

TheBMW H2R does not use a Hydrogen fuel cell but instead favours an internal combustion engine which runs on hydrogen.

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