These electric power systems can be used in municipal buses, work trucks, boats and ships, cars, taxis, locomotives, subways, unmanned vehicles, aircraft, space vehicles, and much more. Since it produces zero carbon emissions – just electricity, heat, and water – the principal benefit of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Power technology is that it keeps the air clean and does not leave any toxic residue in its production, avoiding health hazards that some other power systems can create, while still providing vehicle operators with an operational range comparable to or better than fossil fuel engines.

Hydrogen fuel cell electric power is also created nearly silent, so when paired with an efficient all-electric drive system, whatever vehicle it powers can run very quietly – even city buses, garbage trucks, delivery vans, and other work vehicles that traditionally add substantially to noise pollution wherever, whenever they operate. This makes hydrogen fuel cell buses and trucks very attractive to municipalities eager to improve quality of life for its residents, businesses, and visitors, either by reducing noise levels while maintaining services or by providing new services without adding new noise irritants.

How do hydrogen fuel cell electric systems work?

All fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) run on electricity produced in hydrogen-powered fuel cells – a set or “stack” of proton exchange membrane electrodes that mix hydrogen and oxygen to make electricity – blended with an appropriate number of high voltage lithium-ion batteries. Some of the electricity produced by the hydrogen fuel cells is used immediately and some is stored in the batteries. Electricity generated by recapturing brake energy is also stored in the battery.

The size and/or number of electric motors required to power a bus, truck, or other vehicle is determined by the type of work that vehicle does – construction, transportation, hauling cargo, garbage collection, etc. Even FCEVs built for the defense industry are designed and outfitted with the specific jobs that they will perform in mind. The amount of energy stored in the system is determined by the volume of its hydrogen tanks, not the size of its batteries, so a hydrogen fuel cell bus, truck, boat, locomotive, or personal car can have smaller or fewer batteries than its all-electric equivalent would need. Hydrogen tanks can also be refilled quickly, which avoids repowering “downtime” for greater in-service availability.

Where are hydrogen fuel cells used?

Hydrogen fuel cell electric platforms for use as buses and trucks are marketed around the globe by a number of different automobile makers, which of course crosses borders, but the most growth in adoption of and investment in hydrogen fuel cell electric power as a vehicle technology has been in the United States (driven mostly by California), China, Canada, Western Europe (the United Kingdom, Norway, France, and Germany), Japan, and South Korea. In addition to platforms for buses and trucks, this also includes investment in hydrogen fuel cell electric power for locomotives, aircraft, and personal vehicles. However, many bus and truck makers have their hydrogen fuel cell electric systems designed, licensed, and manufactured in partnership with advanced zero emissions technology companies that have the on-staff talent, years of experience, and worldwide resources necessary to continuously improve the technologies inside hydrogen fuel cell electrical systems. It’s often the most effective and cost-efficient way for operators across the commercial, municipal, military, and consumer sectors to be at the forefront of the industry.

A hydrogen refueling infrastructure

While the technology of hydrogen fuel cell electric power has undergone significant improvement in recent years, its growth and adoption for day-to-day commercial or consumer use has been hindered by comparatively limited hydrogen refueling station infrastructures in country after country. Growth in the number of refueling stations has come mostly from government funding in Japan, South Korea, Germany, China, and the State of California in the U.S. The expectation is that early adoption nations will soon reach a tipping point where the demand for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles will be enough to prompt more private investment in refueling infrastructures worldwide.

Related Topics to Explore

Electric Drive Transportation Association • Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) • Emission Neutral Vehicles (ENVs) • Fleet Electrification Grants • Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association • Fuel Cell Buses (FCBs) • Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) • Fuel Cells for Transportation • Fuel Cell Forklifts (FCFs) • High-Capacity Storage Batteries • Hybrid Electric Buses (HEBs) • Hydrogen Fuel Cell Buses • Hydrogen Fueling Stations • Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) • Proton-Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells; Smart Charging • Three-Phase Power • Ultracapacitors • Union of Concerned Scientists • V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) Energy Storage • Zero Emissions Buses (ZEBs)


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