University Claims Fuel Cell Breakthrough Making Them Cheaper Than ICE

A Canadian university is claiming to have cracked the problem of cost hampering wide-scale adoption of fuel cell technology.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo claim their fuel cell is so cheap it could even rival a carmaker’s costs of using traditional gasoline engines. The say they have developed a hydrogen fuel cell that lasts at least 10 times longer than those currently deployed by automakers including Toyota, Honda and Hyundai. The longevity of the new fuel cell could, when mass produced, make fuel cells among the most economical production powertrains for automotive applications.

Researchers initially concentrated on hybrid vehicles, which now have gas engines as well as batteries due to issues involving limited driving range and long charging times.

The university now says it has solved the issues with fuel cell life-span by delivering a constant, rather than a fluctuating, amount of electricity. It says the result is that cells, which produce electricity from the chemical reaction when hydrogen and oxygen are combined, can be far simpler and cheaper.

Xianguo Li, director of the fuel cell and green energy lab at Waterloo, said: “With our design approach, the cost could be comparable or even cheaper than gasoline engines. The future is very bright. This is clean energy that could boom.” Li collaborated with lead researcher Hongtao Zhang, a former post-doctoral fellow, Waterloo mathematics professor Xinzhi Liu and Jinyue Yan, an energy expert and professor in Sweden. A paper on their work, Enhancing fuel cell durability for fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicles through strategic power management, appears in the journal Applied Energy.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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