|Above: The schematics of a Single Cylinder Internal Combustion Engine (Ballard Power Systems)|
The Ballard® fuel cell generates power in a fundamentally different way from internal combustion engines (ICEs) and storage batteries. Fuel cells have the advantages of both ICE's and batteries without the problems of either.
ICEs operate by burning fuel to create heat, heat is
converted into mechanical energy and then motive power or, by turning a
generator, electric power. The efficiency of this conversion process is greatly affected by losses of waste heat and friction. In contrast, fuel cells efficiently convert fuel directly into electricity via an electrochemical reaction, making fuel cells more than twice as efficient as ICEs in extracting useful power from fuel.
Like an ICE, fuel cells conveniently use fuel from a tank that can be quickly refueled, and they operate continuously as long as fuel is supplied. Unlike ICEs, however, fuel cells do not burn fuel and therefore do not produce the air pollutants resulting from combustion.
Batteries are energy storage devices; they can only produce power intermittently as they must be recharged. The recharging process is lengthy, inconvenient, and shifts pollution, efficiency and cost issues up the power line to central electrical power plants.
|Above: A schematic of a battery (Ballard Power Systems)|
The battery is recharged (refueled) by the process of passing electricity into the battery. Batteries and fuel cells are both electrochemical (no combustion) devices that have high efficiency and quiet operation, without the polluting byproducts of combustion.
A battery stores its energy in its electrodes. Electricity is released as the stored
energy is consumed. In contrast, fuel cells produce electricity using fuel from an
external tank. Fuel cells operate continuously as long as fuel is supplied and the tank
can be quickly refueled, avoiding the time-consuming recharging process.
Fuel cells are the ultimate power provider. They are clean,
quiet, and efficient, and operate continuously as long as fuel is supplied. Fuel cells
have no moving parts; therefore they have excellent reliability and long operating lives.
Fuel cell systems can use multiple fuels such as natural gas, methanol, gasoline and
hydrogen. They have high power density, sufficient to power an automobile, and the
refueling ease of an ICE.
Fuel cell systems feature positive qualities of both ICEs and batteries while overcoming their negative attributes. Fuel cells are the best alternative.
Reprinted courtesy of Ballard Power Systems