Technology – Fuel Cell Problems

7 05 2009

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/fuel-efficiency/alternative-fuels/fuel-cell5.htm

Fuel cells might be the answer to our power problems, but first scientists will have to sort out a few major issues.

Cost

among the problems associated with fuel cells is how expensive they are. Many of the component pieces of a fuel cell are costly. For PEMFC systems, proton exchange membranes, precious metal catalysts (usually platinum), gas diffusion layers, and bipolar plates make up 70 percent of a system’s cost. in order to be competitively priced (compared to gasoline-powered vehicles), fuel cell systems must cost $35 per kilowatt. Currently, the projected high-volume production price is $73 per kilowatt

Durability

Researchers must develop PEMFC membranes that are durable and can operate at temperatures greater than 100 degrees Celsius and still function at sub-zero ambient temperatures. A 100 degrees Celsius temperature target is required in order for a fuel cell to have a higher tolerance to impurities in fuel. Because you start and stop a car relatively frequently, it is important for the membrane to remain stable under cycling conditions. Currently membranes tend to degrade while fuel cells cycle on and off, particularly as operating temperatures rise.

Infrastructure

In order for PEMFC vehicles to become a viable alternative for consumers, there must be a hydrogen generation and delivery infrastructure. This infrastructure might include pipelines, truck transport, fueling stations and hydrogen generation plants. The DOE hopes that development of a marketable vehicle model will drive the development of an infrastructure to support it.

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