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Introduction to Fuel Cells

Fuel cells are a rapidly developing energy conversion technology. Offering higher efficiencies than conventional technologies, they also operate quietly and have a modular construction that is easily scaleable. These features mean that fuel cells are attractive for a range of potential applications, including combined heat and power (CHP), distributed power generation and transport.

Fuel cells are electrochemical devices which convert the energy of a chemical reaction directly into electricity, with heat as a by-product. They are similar in principle to primary batteries except that the fuel and oxidant are stored externally, enabling them to continue operating as long as fuel and oxidant (oxygen or air) are supplied.

Stationary fuel cell systems have been installed world-wide and have demonstrated excellent fuel efficiency and reliability. Many believe that the fuel cell engine, comprising a fuel processor, fuel cell stack and power conditioner, will ultimately take the place of the internal combustion engine as the dominant technology for vehicle power trains. Fuel cells are also attracting interest for providing portable power for laptop computers, mobile telephones etc.

Further information on fuel cells and their applications is available from our publications or by following the fuel cell links.

Outreach Event

We held a successful outreach event on the 23rd April, hosted by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, with international experts reporting on current developments and market initiatives in fuel cell and hydrogen technology around the world.

Fuel cells convert chemical energy into electricity and heat with very high efficiency and low pollutant emission. In combination with renewable energy generation, the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier allows to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases, as well as to secure energy supply and to promote industrial innovation. Fuel cells and hydrogen are commercial in a variety of applications. Large fuel cell power parks are being realized, fuel cells for combined heat and power production are promoted, hydrogen refueling infrastructures are built up in various regions around the world, and a number of car manufactures are showing interest in putting fuel cell vehicles on the road. The goal of this event is to report about current developments and market initiatives in fuel cell and hydrogen technology all around the globe.

Below are the presentations that were shared during the event.


Applications Status of hydrogen fuel cell electric buses worldwide, Journal of Power Sources, 2014, DOI: 10.1016/j.jpowsour.2014.06.055

Fuel Cells for Buses, 2012

Caltech's solar-powered toilet, incorporating fuel cells and hydrogen generation, has won the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge issued by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2012.

IEA Bus report

Back Up Power - During Hurricane Sandy in the USA, fuel cells were instrumental in providing backup power for cell towers and keeping cell phone communications open for many in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Benefits The Business Case for Fuel Cells 2012 from Fuel Cells 2000

Fuel Cells Techologies Program - The USA's fuel cell program, at the Department of Energy, Office for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Programme Plans, Roadmaps and Vision Documents

H2USA, California Fuel Cells Partnership

Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)


Manufacturing Cost Analysis of Stationary Fuel Cell Systems by Strategic Analysis Inc ( - This report details design and capital cost of stationary fuel cell systems (FCSs), using low temperature (LT) proton exchange membrane (PEM), high temperature (HT) PEM, and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC).

National Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Learning Demonstration Final Report, 2012

State of the States, Fuel Cells in America 2012 from Fuel Cells 2000

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Interagency Action Plan 2012

2011 Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report from the DoE

US DOE Office of Fossil Energy Fuel Cell Program

EC ene.field will deploy up to 1,000 residential fuel cell Combined Heat and Power (micro-CHP) installations, across 12 key Member States. It represents a step change in the volume of fuel cell micro-CHP (micro FC-CHP) deployment in Europe and a meaningful step towards commercialisation of the technology.

Guidelines on financial incentives for energy-efficient cars' February 2013

Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking

Publication: First interim evaluation of the Fuel cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (EC, 2011)

European strategy on clean and energy efficient vehicles


Fuel Cells and Hydrogen in Finland, 2012

Finnish Fuel Cell Technology Program

Polttokennot-toimialaryhmä - Fuel Cell Finland Industry Group


Partnerskabet for brint og brændselsceller - Danish Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells

Danish Micro Combined Heat and Power Project: The project is the first European combined heat and power project to combine the entire fuel cell value chain in one national consortium. The aim is to achieve a more efficient energy supply and a reduction in CO2.


Forschungsprogramm Brennstoffzellen - Swiss Fuel Cells Research Programme


Nationale Organisation Wasserstoff- und Brennstoffzellentechnologie - National Organisation for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology

National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP)

Germany's 3rd Energy Policy: Heading towards 2050 with secure, affordable and environmentally sound energy.

Innovative Fuel Cell Technologies from Germany on the Verge of Serial Production - Report from the German Engineering Federation's (VDMA) Working Group on Fuel Cells.


Association Française pour l'Hydrogène et piles à combustible - French Association for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells

French Roadmap for hydrogen energy and fuel cells


KETEP: Korean Institute of Energy Technology, Evaluation and Planning; New and Renewable Energy


Swedish Fuel Cells, Branslecell - All reports from the Swedish Fuel Cell Program, financed by the Swedish Energy Agency, Energimyndigheten, can be found on this website.


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