What are the problems with hydrogen fuel cells?

Cost of raw materials Precious metals, such as platinum and iridium, are often used as catalysts in fuel cells and in some types of water electrolyzers, meaning that the initial cost of fuel cells (and electrolyzers) can be high. This high cost has dissuaded some from investing in hydrogen fuel cell technology. The energy content of hydrogen by volume is low. This makes storing hydrogen a challenge because it requires high pressures, low temperatures, or chemical processes to store it in a compact way.

Overcoming this challenge is important for light vehicles because they often have a limited size and weight capacity to store fuel. In collaboration with Hynamics, a subsidiary of EDF, the intention was to build a 2 MW electrolyzer with hydrogen storage, powered by 2.8 MW of photovoltaic energy, to generate 800 kg of green hydrogen per day for the bus fleet. Once produced, hydrogen generates electrical energy in a fuel cell, emitting only water vapor and hot air. See the Department of Energy's Office of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Plan for plans and projections for the future of hydrogen and fuel cells.

Because hydrogen has a lower volumetric energy density than gasoline, storing this amount of hydrogen in a vehicle currently requires a larger tank at higher pressure than other gaseous fuels. PEM fuel cells, which use pressurized gaseous hydrogen as fuel, can offer greater range and faster refueling time than equivalent battery electric vehicles. The report on fuel cell electric vehicles is part of IDTechEx's broader mobility research portfolio, which analyzes the adoption of electric vehicles, battery trends, range and demand on land, sea and air. However, in the case of FCEVs, the main problem is not fuel cells or the lack of hydrogen refueling infrastructure (although it is also poor), but rather the high emissions and cost of hydrogen itself.

Environmental and health benefits are also seen in the source of hydrogen production if it is obtained from low- or zero-emission sources, such as solar, wind and nuclear energy and fossil fuels with advanced emission controls and carbon sequestration. Learn more about the benefits of hydrogen at the Inter-Agency Working Group on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells and the Office of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies. Unlike a battery, where most of the cost comes from the raw materials used to make it, the most expensive part of a fuel cell is manufacturing the fuel cell stack itself, not the materials to produce it. The report analyzes the technical and economic aspects of the deployment of fuel cells in these different transport applications and presents IDTechEx's independent perspectives for the future of fuel cell vehicles in 20 years.

However, if we take a closer look at the factors driving this growth, we see how far Toyota, Hyundai and the governments that support the deployment of fuel cell vehicles need to go to generate this momentum. Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles emit none of these harmful substances, just water (H2O) and hot air. The production of green hydrogen is, without a doubt, a great opportunity for companies willing to invest, although there are significant production and distribution challenges to overcome to make H2 a cost-effective and emission-free automotive fuel. For OEMs who have been developing fuel cell vehicles for the past 30 years, mass production of cheap green hydrogen can't come soon enough, they already needed it yesterday.


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