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Disadvantages of Fuel Cells

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We have previously discussed the Advantages of Fuel Cells so it is now prudent to look at the disadvantages of fuel cells.

Although hydrogen fuel cells are not the only type of fuel cell possible, they are the only type currently being tested in a large scale for automotive use. Other options, such as zinc air fuel cells, are an alternative that have advantages and disadvantages not discussed so far.

Disadvantages of Fuel Cells

Expensive to make, these cells are nearly all currently being hand-made. Most automakers (17 so far) are expecting this to drop with mass production since fuel cells are relatively simple units that lend themselves to easy automation in manufacture.

Hydrogen reforming is not as environmentally friendly as other sources of fuel - namely some biofuels and pure electricity. This is a concern since most hydrogen today is produced through the reformation of natural gas.

Electrolysis is inefficient and a net energy loss overall, when considering the full life cycle of hydrogen as a fuel. For the most part, this is true of many fuels - both petroleum-derived and not.

Longer to refuel and start compared to gasoline or diesel engines. Refueling a hydrogen fuel cell takes more time than pumping gasoline, but not nearly as long as charging battery EV batteries.

Since hydrogen fuel cells are at peak efficiency at a specific core temperature, they often "ramp up" to get to that heat before producing enough power flow to operate a vehicle. This is why most HFCV use small battery banks to get started.

Fuel cells are larger than batteries when compared on an output-to-output ratio, but are smaller and lighter when compared on a density/mile ratio.

Expensive materials in common fuel cell technology (esp. the platinum catalyst) makes them costly. This is being changed, but so far is not mainstream.

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