Fuel Cells

Fuel-cell cars run on hydrogen. The only waste products are clean water and heat.

Say goodbye to the internal combustion engine. The fuel cell is a new kind of engine without any moving parts.

It all sounds very Science Fiction and it is therefore approriate that fuel cells have been around at Nasa since the 1960s.

How do fuel cells work?

Like batteries, fuel cells make electricity from chemical reactions. A fuel cell has positive and negative terminals with the anode and cathode being separated by a polymer membrane electrolyte. Hydrogen atoms enter a fuel cell at the anode where a chemical reaction strips them of their electrons. The hydrogen atoms are now ionized, and carry a positive electrical charge.

However, unlike a battery, when a fuel cell loses power, it is because it has run out of juice. Just top up with more hydrogen and it produces energy once more.

A fuel cell running on hydrogen produces just one waste product, which is pure clean water.

A DC current can be used directly, or inverted to supply an AC current to power the car's motor.

Fuel cells are being used not only in cars and other forms of transportation, but also to provide electricity for homes and offices.

The Honda car company began the first commercial production of a zero-emission, hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicle in 2008.

The FCX Clarity is a four seater which the manufacturers claim can offer three times better fuel economy than petrol cars.

The Ford Focus FCV is a hybrid fuel cell vehicle. This combines both fuel cells and a small conventional motor.