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Fuel Cells: Myths and Facts

Like you, we are always on the lookout for sustainable energy sources. Fuel cells convert hydrogen (the fuel) to electricity without combustion (burning).  Many first convert natural gas to hydrogen and then convert the hydrogen to electricity:

 

How Fuel Cells Work

(Source: Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association)

 

Our world is primed to use them as clean, economically-viable power sources. Since today just happens to be National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day (yes, it’s a thing), we thought we’d celebrate by dispelling the top five myths that might prevent you from looking deeper into using them as an alternative source of energy.  

Myth #1: Fuel Cells Are New Technology 

Fact: Welsh scientist William Grove invented them way back in 1838. But it was close to 100 years later before Francis Bacon commercialized their use with his creation of the hydrogen-oxygen version. NASA has been using the Bacon fuel cell since the mid-1960s for satellites and space capsules. Although using them in daily life is somewhat new, the invention itself has actually been around for quite some time.

Myth #2: Fuel Cells Won’t Help With Climate Change

Fact: Hydrogen fuel cells are an environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuels.  When using them to generate energy, your only byproduct is going to water, which means it is a zero-emission form of energy.  This could greatly reduce pollution and greenhouse gases.

Myth #3: Hydrogen Fuel is Bad For The Environment

Fact:  Hydrogen has been safely used in the United States for more than 50 years. With a hydrogen fuel cell, no carbon dioxide is emitted—only electricity, heat and water. Hydrogen fuel cells can create completely clean electricity, with no burning involved. 

Myth #4: Hydrogen Fuel Isn’t Abundant

Fact: Hydrogen is the most common element on the planet and it can be made by separating the elements that make water. As you know, two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom make up water. The electricity you use can come from solar or wind—both of which are renewable sources.  A common solution to supplying the hydrogen is to use natural gas because it is affordable and can be available on-demand in any size quantity.

Myth #5: Fuel Cells Aren’t Necessary Because We Have Wind, Solar, and Batteries

Fact: Depending on what it’s like outside, solar and wind power are not always available on demand. You have to store it for dark, cloudy days, or for days when there is no wind.  Batteries can’t store electricity for long periods.  Storing renewable electricity as hydrogen allows you to store solar and wind power indefinitely. While batteries store energy (and eventually have to be thrown away unless they are rechargeable), fuel cells produce energy continuously as long as the fuel (typically hydrogen) and air are supplied. 

 

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