Applications of Fuel Cells
As we've discussed, fuel cells could be used in a number of applications. Each proposed use raises its own issues and challenges.
Fuel-cell-powered cars will start to replace gas- and diesel-engine cars in about 2005. A fuel-cell car will be very similar to an electric car but with a fuel cell and reformer instead of batteries. Most likely, you will fill your fuel-cell car up with methanol, but some companies are working on gasoline reformers. Other companies hope to do away with the reformer completely by designing advanced storage devices for hydrogen.
Check out these links for more information about fuel-cell-powered automibles:
Fuel cells also make sense for portable electronics like laptop computers, cellular phones or even hearing aids. In these applications, the fuel cell will provide much longer life than a battery would, and you should be able to"recharge" it quickly with a liquid or gaseous fuel.
Check out these links for more information on portable-power fuel cells:
Fuel-cell-powered buses are already running in several cities. The bus was one of the first applications of the fuel cell because initially, fuel cells needed to be quite large to produce enough power to drive a vehicle. In the first fuel-cell bus, about one-third of the vehicle was filled with fuel cells and fuel-cell equipment. Now the power density has increased to the point that a bus can run on a much smaller fuel cell.
Check out these links for more information on fuel-cell buses:
Home Power Generation
This is a promising application that you may be able to order as soon as 2002. General Electric is going to offer a fuel-cell generator system made by Plug Power. This system will use a natural gas or propane reformer and produce up to seven kilowatts of power (which is enough for most houses). A system like this produces electricity and significant amounts of heat, so it is possible that the system could heat your water and help to heat your house without using any additional energy.
Check out these links for more information on fuel-cell home power generation:
Large Power Generation
Some fuel-cell technologies have the potential to replace conventional combustion power plants. Large fuel cells will be able to generate electricity more efficiently than today's power plants. The fuel-cell technologies being developed for these power plants will generate electricity directly from hydrogen in the fuel cell, but will also use the heat and water produced in the cell to power steam turbines and generate even more electricity. There are already large portable fuel-cell systems available for providing backup power to hospitals and factories.
Check out these links for more information on large fuel-cell power generation:
For more information on fuels cells and related topics, check out the links on the next page!