Publication Detail

Fuel Cells for Transportation: A Review of Principles and Current Technological Status


Presentation Series

Suggested Citation:
Erickson, Paul A. and Vernon P. Roan, Jr. (1999) Fuel Cells for Transportation: A Review of Principles and Current Technological Status. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Presentation Series UCD-ITS-RP-99-19

Proceedings of Renewable and Advanced Energy Systems for the 21st Century, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

As demands for high-energy, non-polluting power systems increase, efforts into utilizing fuel cells for transportation power are likewise increasing. Fuel cell technology is rapidly advancing towards becoming a practical replacement for the internal combustion engine commonly used for transportation. This paper presents the current status of the fuel cell technology which is being applied or has a high possibility of being applied to transportation systems. The transportation sector places high technological demands on power systems. Because of these demands, low temperature fuel cells (< 500° C) with high power densities have the greatest possibility of being applicable in the transportation sector.

The principles by which low temperature fuel cells work are discussed as are and the potential benefits that fuel cells have over traditional transportation power systems. This paper examines the current technology status of Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMs) and other low temperature fuel cell types such as Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cells (PAFCs) and their potential applications in transportation. Recent advances, especially those which have increased the power densities have allowed fuel cells to technically begin to become feasible replacements for internal combustion engines. Other advances such as catalyst reduction and electrolyte improvement in PEMs are also presented. This paper also discusses some of the more significant technical challenges still facing the application of low temperature fuel cells to the transportation sector such as slow transient response of fuel reformers and water management in the fuel cell. Several complex subsystems also still need to be properly integrated in order to make fuel cells practical transportation power systems. To overcome these and other challenges, many organizations are conducting research and development in transportation oriented fuel cell systems. This paper cites some of the latest review articles and recent conference proceedings along with input from personal communication.