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NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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Fuel Cell Vehicles

NREL vehicle systems analysts work to remove the barriers facing the advancement of fuel cell vehicles. Our R&D activities include:

We collaborate with NREL's Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Research Program.

Fuel Cell Hybrids

Fuel cell hybrids are powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and an energy storage system, such as an electric battery. They don't have internal combustion engines.

We're currently defining the energy storage system requirements for fuel cell hybrids. This involves determining trade-offs among different combinations of fuel cell and energy storage system sizes.

Hydrogen Hybrid with a Small Fuel Cell

Also, we've explored the benefits of using a small fuel cell in a hydrogen hybrid vehicle. A hydrogen hybrid has an internal combustion engine fueled by hydrogen as well as an energy storage system (e.g., battery), much like a conventional hybrid.

In a hydrogen hybrid, most of the energy used by the vehicle remains at a much lower power level than its peak power. Therefore, adding a small fuel cell to supply most of the energy can potentially:

  • Improve efficiency because fuels cells are more efficient than internal combustion engines
  • Improve the vehicle's range because a more efficient vehicle can travel further on the same amount of hydrogen
  • Involve less risk than mass marketing large fuel cells.

We've conducted analyses to determine the range, efficiency, and relative cost benefits from using a small fuel cell in a hydrogen hybrid. We then compared these results to a hydrogen internal combustion engine vehicle and a fuel cell hybrid.

Hydrogen Fuel Costs

The success of our nation's hydrogen economy relies heavily on the cost of hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen can be used more efficiently than gasoline, which should help relax the hydrogen fuel cost target. Therefore, we're estimating the relative efficiency of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to gasoline-powered vehicles to help find a hydrogen fuel target that provides the same cost per mile of driving.

Learn More

For more information, see fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen basics.