Why Fuel Cells

Rising energy demand and transportation use leading to increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are driving demand for cleaner vehicles.

Several alternative power technologies reduce GHG, however the fuel cell provides the best long-term solution to achieve global climate change targets and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Automotive power technology offers the combination of benefits that fuel cells provide. Fuel cells are the only zero-emission powertrain that can meet the extended range and rapid refuelling desired by consumers. They are safe, reliable, efficient, fun to drive, offer long range and quick refueling, enable independence from oil.

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Andrea Sudik
Manager, GDL Engineering

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What is a Fuel Cell Vehicle?

In a fuel cell vehicle, gaseous hydrogen is pumped into the tank of a car, similar to gasoline. The hydrogen is then fed to the fuel cell “stack” – the heart of the fuel cell vehicle – where it is electrochemically converted into electricity with no combustion and zero emissions, other than water vapour. The electricity then drives an electric motor that powers the wheels. As long as you provide hydrogen, the fuel cell will continue to produce electricity.

A fuel cell vehicle is highly efficient (between two and three times more efficient than today’s internal combustion engines) and operates with very little energy loss which creates excellent fuel economy.

What is a Fuel Cell?

Fuel cells are currently one of the most viable technologies capable of achieving a significant long-term reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles and relieving us from our dependence on oil. Auto manufacturers have been developing hydrogen fuel cell technology as they recognize the significant role fuel cells will play in addressing climate change.

With commercialization slated in the 2017 timeframe, consumers will soon benefit from the range of benefits that automotive fuel cells provide — zero emissions, improved efficiencies, extended range and quick refueling time.

Auto manufacturers will continue to develop other electric vehicle technologies such as hybrids and battery powered vehicles to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. A diverse powertrain portfolio is required to cover all applications and personal mobility needs.

AFCC Fuel Cell Technology

AFCC’s automotive fuel cell stack is a proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEM) fuel cell that operates with compressed gaseous hydrogen and air.

PEM fuel cells separate the anode and cathode sides of the fuel cell with a proton-conducting polymer membrane (the electrolyte). Platinum based catalysts are coated on both sides of the polymer membrane to form the anode and cathode.

Gas diffusion layers of carbon fiber paper sandwich the catalyst coated membrane (CCM) which is then combined with a plastic frame to form a membrane electrode assembly (MEA).

Bipolar plates made from metal or carbon then help form a unit cell which can then be stacked in series to form a fuel cell stack.

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Features & Advantages

Fuel cell vehicles can provide the range of an internal combustion engine and provide zero tailpipe emissions.

Fuel cell vehicles offer:

  • High efficiency
  • Fast refuelling (under three minutes)
  • Long range
  • High torque for quick starts
  • Quiet ride
  • Independence from oil
  • Zero tailpipe emissions.

No other automotive power technology offers the combination of benefits that fuel cells provide.

Environmental Benefits

For over 100 years, our transportation network has been fuelled primarily by petroleum, refined into gasoline, and diesel, and natural gas. The burning of these hydrocarbon fuels causes the emission of greenhouse gases, leading to temperature rise resulting in climate change and increased pollution.

In a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the only emission is water vapour. Hydrogen, however, is only as clean as the source it is derived from. Well-to-wheel (fuel production through end use in a vehicle) studies of various fuel pathways and vehicle types have shown that if hydrogen is produced using natural gas, the well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emission benefits are at least 55% less compared to a gasoline combustion engine and about 40% less than that of gasoline hybrid engine. When hydrogen is produced from renewable resources and used to power a fuel cell vehicle, the entire chain results in the lowest environmental impact of all vehicle types.

 

Harness the power of the most abundant element in the known universe – zero-emission hydrogen power

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