Fuel cell vehicle (FCV)

Fuel cell vehicle (FCV) is a vehicle with an electric motor which is powered by a fuel cell. A fuel cell generates electricity through chemical redox reactions using, generally, oxygen from the air and compressed hydrogen. This means that FCVs are fueled with hydrogen and they emit only water and heat. Fuel cells have been used in cars, buses, forklifts, planes, trains and other vehicles and also in the space industry. They are a good alternative for combustion engines for indoor applications as well as for using in locations with low temperatures. That is because the emission has no effect on the air quality and low-temperature degrees do not affect their performance. This is why forklifts powered by fuel cells are quite often used in refrigerated warehouses.

There were times when fuel cell vehicles appeared to be the next big thing. But the rise of battery-powered electric and hybrid electric vehicles quickly changed that. One of the problems with hydrogen-powered FCVs is that it requires an infrastructure of hydrogen fueling stations. In 2020 there were less than 50 retail hydrogen fueling stations in the USA. In addition, hydrogen is mainly produced from fossil fuels—the same fuels that power combustion engines. This means that the environmental problems related to the use of fossil fuels remain even though FCVs are considered zero-emissions vehicles. On top of that, the production of fuel cells is rather expensive because of the use of platinum. Due to these and other reasons, investments in mainstream fuel cell vehicles have dropped drastically and car manufacturers have moved on to battery-powered electric and hybrid electric vehicles.

Synonym(s):
  • Fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV)
  • Fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV)
  • Hydrogen vehicle