Fuel Cells Explained

Fuel Cell Applications & Issues

Mobile Applications

Passenger Vehicles

A great deal of excitement and potential lies in the market opportunity for fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). Today, there are approximately 100 in various stages of demonstration and development.

For example, in the summer of 2002:

  • DaimlerChrysler's NECAR 5 drove cross-country over 15 days from San Francisco to Washington D.C. - over 3,000 miles through the dust, dirt, and grit of the real world, in varying altitudes, significant accomplishment
  • Toyota, Honda, and General Motors all announced they were moving up their production schedules to introduce fuel cell vehicles into the market in 2002 rather than 2003. While very limited in numbers these FCVs represent a remarkable step forward.

The technology has come a long way in just the past five years although there are still a number of issues to be resolved.


Xcellsis Nebus photo

Buses / Trucks

Since Ballard unveiled the world's first fuel cell bus in 1993, approximately twenty- five fuel cell buses have been built and operated worldwide.

This number includes buses developed by Ballard, DaimlerChrysler, Georgetown University, Irisbus, MAN, Neoplan, Scania and Xcellsis. Although activity is spread across the globe, more than two-thirds of these vehicles have been built and operated in North America.

A typical bus power plant is 250 kW in size and developers have utilized both Phosphoric Acid and Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cells.

While the number of buses is limited, particularly in comparison to light duty passenger vehicles, this is an appealing early market due to a number of attractive features, including:

  • Central fueling facilities
  • Onsite service personnel
  • Known use
  • Continuous operation during the day
  • Fewer weight and size restrictions (compared to passenger vehicles)

Motor Scooters / Electric Bikes

According to an analysis by Fuel Cell Today, motor scooters produce a disproportionate amount of pollution, given their size. Particulate matter is almost as high as that from a large diesel truck per mile and pollution in the form of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons emissions is triple. The same report also showed that motor scooters account for 25% - 75% of Asia's vehicle fleets depending upon country.


In the area of shipping, development work is underway in the area of propulsion as well as auxiliary power for cruise ships, powered barges, ferry boats, offshore supply boats, push-tow boats, oceangoing tugs, submersibles, and even submarine tankers.

Fuel cells have also been suggested for use as power sources for ports, offshore oil platforms, underwater facilities, and for refrigeration on containerships.

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