Fuel Cells – An opportunity to replace fossil fuels

Hydrogen Fuel Cells have potential to replace traditional power plants and IC engines. And that makes it a real big investment opportunity. Hydrogen fuel cells are more efficient than traditional internal combustion engines because they convert chemical energy directly into electrical energy, reducing energy loss from heat. They also emit only water vapor, while traditional engines run on fossil fuels emit greenhouse gases and pollutants.

What is a fuel cell

A Fuel Cell uses the chemical energy of hydrogen or other fuels to cleanly produce electricity. If hydrogen is the fuel, the only products are electricity, water, and heat, zero pollution!

Fuel cells are unique in terms of the variety of their potential applications.

  • They can use a wide range of fuels and feedstocks.
  • They can provide power for systems as large as a utility power station and as small as a laptop computer.

They are different from most batteries in requiring a continuous source of fuel and oxygen (usually from air) to sustain the chemical reaction, whereas in a battery the chemical energy usually comes from substances that are already present in the battery. Fuel cells work like batteries, but they do not run down or need recharging. They can produce electricity and heat continuously for as long as fuel and oxygen are supplied.

Uses of fuel cells


Primary and backup power for commercial, industrial and residential buildings and in remote or inaccessible areas. A fuel cell system running on hydrogen can be compact and lightweight, and have no major moving parts. Because fuel cells have no moving parts and do not involve combustion, in ideal conditions they can achieve up to 99.9999% reliability. This equates to less than one minute of downtime in a six-year period.

No pollution, less space, and almost zero downtime makes it many times superior than the traditional fossil fuel-based power plants. It will take time, but will definitely replace fossil fuel.


Companies: Volvo, Honda, BMW, Land Rover, Toyota, Hyundai, Mercedes, Suzuki, Renault etc. have started producing fuel cell powered vehicles. Fuel cells are being used in –

  • NASA spacecrafts
  • Forklifts
  • Automobiles
  • Buses
  • Trains
  • Boats
  • Motorcycles
  • Submarines

Benefits of fuel cells

1. Resilience and high efficiency

Energy resilience is the ability of the grid, buildings, and communities to withstand and rapidly recover from power outages and continue operating with electricity, heating, cooling, ventilation, and other energy-dependent services. And fuel cells are great at offering energy resilience.

Fuel cells

Fuel cells have the capability to co-locate supply and demand, avoiding efficiency losses from transmission and distribution. Transmission line losses average about 5 percent for the U.S. grid, which represents inefficiency, results in additional emissions, and is a hidden cost to ratepayers.

Fuel cells can ensure that a reliable energy supply is available to maintain operations in the event of a grid disruption. When the energy grid is disrupted from events like storms, businesses can experience lost product and costly downtime as they restart processes or reconfigure machinery. Critical infrastructure also relies on power for emergency services. The fuel cell benefit of energy resilience can maximize a business’s uptime and keep critical infrastructure up and running.

Energy resilience can be very beneficial to communities during grid interruptions from severe weather or natural disasters.

2. Fuel flexible and hydrogen-ready

Fuel cells can process a broad range of fuels like natural gas, biogas, propane, and hydrogen. Although natural gas is nonrenewable, it emits 50 percent less carbon than coal and is seen as a realistic transition fuel. Fuel cell technology can run off fuels like natural gas today and switch to cleaner alternatives like hydrogen as they become more available. Fuel flexibility provides adaptability in the event of market price fluctuations, continuity during supply disruptions, and long-term compatibility with existing infrastructure.

Solid oxide fuel cells can run off a variety of fuels, including hydrogen. It means “green” hydrogen from renewable sources like wind and solar can be stored and used to produce electricity on-demand. As green hydrogen becomes more available from electrolysis, solid oxide fuel cells can be a source of zero-emission power generation.

3. No combustion

Fuel cells electrochemically react fuel and air to create power, without combustion. Other energy generation processes combust methane, emitting pollution. The electrochemical reaction in fuel cells is virtually free of these harmful emissions. Even if a nonrenewable fuel is used to power a fuel cell, there are still significant environmental benefits.

The electrochemical reaction in high-temperature fuel cells also produces useful thermal energy. To maximize efficiency, combined heat and power (CHP) systems recover heat that would otherwise be lost into the atmosphere. Fuel cell systems can be configured to provide steam, hot water, or heat to support absorption chilling.

4. Easy to site

Two key benefits of fuel cells are their modular design and ability to scale to a site’s energy needs. Fuel cells are also quiet and free of vibration since they contain almost no moving mechanical pieces. Some fuel cell plants may even run quieter than a household vacuum. In addition, they are safe to be installed amidst populated areas because of their clean emissions profile.

Fuel cells benefit

The compact design of fuel cells makes them ideal for properties with limited space. Fuel cell plants require only a fraction of the land needed by a solar farm for generating same power.

5. High Efficiency

When utilizing co-generation, fuel cells can attain over 80% energy efficiency. In comparison, the internal combustion engine of a car can be about 43% energy efficient. Steam power plants usually achieve efficiencies of 30-40%. And gas turbine and steam plants can achieve efficiencies above 60%.

The theoretical maximum efficiency of a fuel cell approaches 100%, while the theoretical maximum efficiency of internal combustion engines is approximately 58%. [Source: Wikipedia]

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Fuel cells in news

Honda reveals 2025 Honda CR-V e plug-in hydrogen fuel cell EV in US: Honda has revealed America’s first production plug-in hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, the 2025 Honda CR-V e:FCEV.

BMW’s iX5 Hydrogen car proves mettle in harsh UAE weather trials: Practical offering. Take the case of BMW iX5 Hydrogen; it uses fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology and a fuel cell system with a 125 kW/170…

Hyundai, Kia Join Gore For Breakthrough In H2 Fuel Cell Technology: In a significant move towards advancing hydrogen fuel cell technology, Hyundai, Kia, and W. L. Gore & Associates…

JAGUAR LAND ROVER TO DEVELOP HYDROGEN-POWERED DEFENDER FUEL CELL PROTOTYPE | JLR Media …: … Hydrogen FCEVs forecast to top 10 million by 2030 with 10,000 refuelling stations worldwide…

GM’s Bold Move: Forget Electric, Hydrogen-Powered Trucks are the Future!: In a bold leap forward, General Motors (GM) has announced its foray into hydrogen fuel cell technology …

Renault is going all out for hydrogen. They have a plan and it is very aggressive: Renault SA is utilizing artificial intelligence technologies to help cut…

‘Record run’ | Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz green hydrogen truck drives over 1000km on a single tank: Daimler completed a test run of its FCEV truck in Germany,…

Toyota’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Sales Saw 166% Increase: Toyota’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Sales Saw 166% Increase … It’s no secret that Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell Mirai has not been successful in…

Successful demo of hydrogen fuel cell at Microsoft data center: Caterpillar’s project with Microsoft and Ballard shows viability of hydrogen technology for backup power.

ISRO tests fuel cell to potentially power space missions: The fuel cell, sent to space on the fourth stage of the PSLV, generated 180W power.

Nissan starts trial of stationary power generation system fueled by bio-ethanol: Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. today announced that it has developed a stationary, bio-ethanol-fueled system capable of high-efficiency power…

GM Fuel cell pilot program Paves the Way for Hydrogen-Powered Worksite Solutions: Hydrogen fuel cells have emerged as a pivotal element in General Motors’ (GM) electrification strategy, and the company is taking bold steps…

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