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Fuel Cell Vehicle Basics

Researchers are developing fuel cells that can be used in vehicles to provide electricity for propulsion as well as for a car's electric and electronic equipment. Because they emit only heat and water vapor, these vehicles have the potential to provide pollution-free transportation as well as to reduce the nation's dependence on imported oil.

Photo showing a silver four-door sedan being driven on a roadway and containing the words "hydrogen fuel cell electric" across the front and rear doors.

This prototype hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle was displayed at a recent conference of the National Hydrogen Association.
Credit: Keith Wipke

Fuel cell vehicles usually run on gaseous hydrogen fuel stored in onboard fuel tanks. Inside the vehicle's fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen combine to produce electricity. The electricity is then stored in a battery that powers the vehicle's electric motor and other electric-powered equipment.

For more information about fuel cell vehicles, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center.