Electric vehicle with fuel cells

Fuel cell technology offers an alternative method of storing energy and transporting it in the vehicle. Hydrogen is usually used as fuel and this is stored in a tank in the vehicle either under high pressure (350 or 700 bar) or as a liquid (at a temperature lower than -250°C). To generate electricity, the hydrogen reacts with oxygen in the fuel cell, which generates electricity and pure water (comparable with distilled water) as a gaseous waste product.

The tank-to-wheel efficiency of a fuel cell system of around 40% is significantly higher than that of a combustion engine vehicle. In comparison to an electric vehicle however, the efficiency of the entire chain (well to wheel) is lower by a factor of two to three. This is due to the conversion of electricity into hydrogen and subsequent conversion back into electricity by the fuel cell in the vehicle. Of 100% electrical energy, around 77% reaches the wheels in battery-powered cars, while the figure for fuel cell vehicles is a mere 26%.

So far, little data is available on the energy consumption of fuel cell vehicles. Information from manufacturers and in scientific studies suggests a range from 0.8 to 1.2 MJ H2/km. To balance the realistic use of a fuel cell vehicle in 2030, UMBReLA has calculated a consumption of 1 MJ H2/km.