Fuel cells can be thought of as alternative energy devices that unlock the power of hydrogen. They convert chemical energy into electrical energy. Hydrogen fuel cells do this very cleanly, with no toxic emissions, and with a high efficiency. Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies have many potential clean energy applications – from running our vehicles, to powering our cellular phones and laptops, to heating our hospitals and homes.
Fuel cells do not generate energy out of thin air. They use hydrogen. Hydrogen is an outstanding carrier of energy. Hydrogen is non-toxic, renewable, easily obtained, and packed with energy. When it combusts with oxygen, it turns into water. This water can again be split into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis. The generated hydrogen can be combusted once again, thus undergoing a limitless cycle without toxic emissions.
Hydrogen - energy without combustion
With a fuel cell, you can convert hydrogen into electric current without combustion. Fossil fuels are converted into usable energy through combustion. The energy released during combustion is inherently difficult to capture and inefficient. It also produces carbon dioxide, which cannot easily be converted back into a usable fuel. A fossil fuel combustion engine at a power plant is only about 30 to 40% efficient. This means it coverts only 30 to 40% of the energy in the fossil fuels to usable energy (electricity). Engines in a car are even less efficient, and reach the level of 15 to 20% of efficiency. Where does the rest of the energy go? It escapes as heat, vibration, and noise.
Hydrogen power efficiency
On the other hand, fuel cells can operate at 40 to 65% efficiency. This means that they can convert 40 to 65% of the energy contained in hydrogen into electricity.
The development of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and products around the world will improve the air we breathe, ensure secure and reliable energy, reduce the emissions that cause climate change and create highly skilled jobs.