Fuel cell vehicles (Encyclopedia of Energy, 2016)
This is an invited, peer-reviewed article that reflects an update of an identically titled article first published in Elsevier's Encyclopedia of Energy (Cutler J. Cleveland, ed.) in 2004.
Fuel cells operating on hydrogen are among the propulsion technologies seeing research, development and demonstration as an option for meeting transportation needs in a world that faces severe limits on net anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This article describes fuel cell vehicles, their principles of operation and major components while discussing the progress made in advancing the technology, the challenges it faces and its prospects for the future. Although various fuel cells can use different fuels, polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) cells that use pure hydrogen are viewed as the best choice for motor vehicles. Fully capable automobiles using PEM fuel cells have been demonstrated and significant cost reductions are in sight for the vehicles themselves. Technical and economic hurdles remain for on-board hydrogen storage, refueling systems and hydrogen supply infrastructure. Fuel cell vehicles will also face competition from ongoing improvements in gasoline vehicles, including hybrid-electric designs, and in small car segments from battery electric vehicles. The economics of all such options will be evaluated in a context that includes increasing vehicle connectivity and automation as well as progress in the control of energy sector CO2 emissions and programs for offsetting CO2 emissions, particularly from liquid fuel use. Nevertheless, because of the promise they hold for meeting energy and climate challenges, fuel cell vehicles have captured the interest of governments and transportation industries around the world, and may become a viable choice for mobility systems of the future.