Fuel Cells Explained

Fuel Cell Applications & Issues

Fuel Cell Applications: Mobile / Drivers

Emission Reduction

Fuel cells produce dramatically lower emissions than today's traditional coal, oil or combustion technologies. While they do still produce some CO2 when using a hydrocarbon base fuel, the production of NOx, SOx and particulates is negligible.

  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • Sulfur oxides (SOx)
  • Hydrocarbons (HC)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Particulate material (PM)

The California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Program administered by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), has been a large incentive for automobile manufacturers to actively pursue fuel cell development for the purpose of reducing emissions.

This program has mandated that beginning in 2003, ten percent of passenger cars delivered for sale in California from medium or large sized manufacturers must be Zero Emission Vehicles. Automobiles powered by batteries or those powered by fuel cells operating on hydrogen meet these requirements (through either full or partial credits).

Public Policy

While public policy is influencing fuel cells as a whole, a number of initiatives are particularly focused on mobile applications.


The internal combustion engine  is a notoriously inefficient engine, converting only about 15-18% of the heat content of gasoline, diesel, etc. into useful energy. Fuel cells' 35-55%, efficiency can directly translate into reduced fuel consumption.

U.S. EPA estimates that today, the fuel efficiency of U.S. vehicles is 23.8 mpg, the lowest since 1980 - due in large part to the prevalence of light trucks and SUVs. It is expected to reach 31.4 by 2010. According to methanex, a methanol-fueled FCV is approximately 1.74 times more efficient, and is therefore expected to attain approximately 55 mpg.

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