Why are hydrogen fuel cells so expensive?

February 10, 2024 | by magnews24.com

The technology involved in using H2 as an energy source can be costly for several reasons.

As much as hydrogen fuel cells have considerable potential to play a sizeable role in the global energy transition away from fossil fuels in order to achieve decarbonization goals, the expense associated with their use remains quite high when compared with other available alternatives.

Understanding where the expense comes from involves knowing how they work.

Hydrogen fuel cells generate electrical power while producing only water vapor and warmth as emissions. As such, their use is considered to have zero-carbon operations.  That decarbonization impact only grows when green H2 is used, meaning that it is produced using processes powered by renewable energy such as wind and solar.  That said, the most common production method currently used involves burning natural gas, a fossil fuel.

The United States views the use of H2 as beneficial in a range of different ways. Beyond its applications, it has substantial potential to support energy security, public health, and the environment.  Still, for it to offer those benefits in any meaningful way, it would need to be adopted to a much larger extent. Currently, costs are among the leading barriers to that end.

hydrogen fuel cells cost in the us cut cost needed

The cost of production is among the largest expenses in hydrogen fuel cells.hydrogen news ebook

To encourage adoption, the cost of the units will need to fall considerably without also compromising performance, says a statement on the Department of Energy website.

Much of the high cost associated with those units is in the manufacturing of the hydrogen fuel cells themselves, not in the materials required to produce them.  That said, the production of green H2 using electrolyzers does require rare metals such as platinum and iridium that come with a high price tag.  Moreover, the expense of building and maintaining refueling stations must also be taken into consideration, and their current price will need to fall before they will be appropriate to form a hydrogen economy.

Production at scale

Many believe that the production of both hydrogen fuel cells and the green H2 itself will fall as they are produced at scale as opposed to their manufacture in smaller numbers as is currently the case. That said, until an H2 production and refueling infrastructure is established, it will be very challenging to achieve those mainstream production levels.

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