Fuel Cell Advantages

So given that fuel cells are glorified batteries, why does everyone seem to be excited about fuel cells? The basic reason comes down to flexibility. While batteries are an incredibily useful portable energy source, they also impose several key limitations when they are used:
  • They have a finite capacity based on the amount of reactant stored in the battery (the electrodes)
  • Once the anode is depleted the battery must be recharged, which means running electons through the battery to force the normal reaction backwards to reconstitute the electrode
In contrast, because the electrodes in a fuel cell are inert and only catalyze the reaction the fuel cell can run as long as fuel is supplied. So for fuel cells:
  • The capacity of a fuel cell is only determined by the capacity of your fuel tank
  • Once your fuel tank is depleted you can refuel it instead of waiting to recharge
Recharging a battery usually takes multiple hours due to the heat generated during the process, however refueling can often be much faster (typically minutes vs. hours). For many practical applications the ability to refuel rather than recharge is a critical feature.

In addition the better functionality, the ability of fuel cells to use hydrogen as fuel opens up a number of exciting options for the broader energy system of society, also known as the “hydrogen economy”.