Posted in | Fuel Cells

New Cheap, More Durable Fuel Cell Could Replace More Common Gasoline Engines

Scientists at the University of Waterloo have found that progress in zero-emission fuel cells can lead to the development of cost-effective technology that can replace conventional gasoline engines in automobiles.

Xianguo Li with a fuel cell test vehicle in his lab. (Image credit: University of Waterloo)

The scientists have created a novel fuel cell that can be at least 10 times durable compared to the existing technology. This development can practically be cheap, when produced at a large scale, to drive vehicles using electricity.

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.

Xianguo Li, Director of the Fuel Cell and Green Energy Lab, University of Waterloo

At first, scientists focused on hybrid vehicles, which currently use batteries and gas engines owing to problems such as long charging times and limited driving range.

In theory, current fuel cells can replace those gas engines that can fuel generators to recharge batteries. Although hybrid vehicles are being used, they are impractical as they are very costly.

The issue was solved by the researchers using fuel cells that are considerably more durable by distributing a steady, instead of fluctuating, amount of electricity.

That is, the fuel cells are significantly simple and cheap as they can produce electricity from the chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen to produce water.

We have found a way to lower costs and still satisfy durability and performance expectations. We’re meeting economic targets while providing zero emissions for a transportation application.

Xianguo Li, Director of the Fuel Cell and Green Energy Lab, University of Waterloo

Li is also a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering.

It is believed by the researchers that the addition of fuel cells in hybrid vehicles can cause mass production and decrease unit costs, paving the way for the complete replacement of gas engines and batteries by offering a cheap, safe, reliable, and clean source of electricity.

This is a good first step, a transition to what could be the answer to the internal combustion engine and the enormous environmental harm it does.

Xianguo Li, Director of the Fuel Cell and Green Energy Lab, University of Waterloo

Li worked with Hongtao Zhang, lead researcher and a former postdoctoral fellow; Xinzhi Liu, Waterloo mathematics professor; and Jinyue Yan, an energy expert and professor in Sweden.

Their study titled “Enhancing fuel cell durability for fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicles through strategic power management” has been published in Applied Energy.

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