Fuel Cell Stacks vs. Batteries: Which is Better for Clean Energy?
As more and more organisations and individuals make the switch to clean energy – the debate between fuel cells and batteries is heating up. Both of these technologies offer the potential to replace fossil fuels and provide renewable energy for a wide variety of applications, such as powering cars, trucks and even entire homes. But batteries and fuel cell stacks are also two fundamentally different technologies, offering different advantages and disadvantages depending on the intended use.
Fuel Cell Stacks: Efficient and Versatile
The benefits of fuel cell stacks over batteries are undeniable. Not only are they highly efficient (at times achieving over 59% efficiency), but they’re extremely versatile – being able to be deployed in a wide variety of applications.
Fuel cell stacks can transform as much as 80% of the energy from their fuel into electricity, which significantly surpasses the 20-30% conversion rate of batteries. This means the fuel consumption needed to generate the same amount of electricity is significantly less – meaning reduced costs to your business and a more environmentally friendly approach.
Fuel cell stacks also have an incredibly wide range of uses. They can power everything from portable electronic devices (such as TVs radios and mobile phones) to large-scale trucks and even entire factories. One of their greatest benefits is that they are perfect for stationary and portable use, making them a flexible solution for almost all energy needs.
Batteries: Portable and Convenient
Batteries are not without certain benefits. While fuel cells are extremely versatile and efficient, the main advantage of batteries is their convenience and portability. Being widely utilised in portable electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones – and even some larger applications such as electric vehicles – batteries are known to offer solutions for consumers who value flexibility and manoeuvrability in powering their devices.
While fuel cell stacks require hydrogen to operate (which can be difficult to obtain in certain locations), batteries can be recharged using a standard electrical outlet. This makes them suitable for use in domestic settings and means they are vastly more accessible to consumers.
Over time, however, the hydrogen needed for fuel cell stacks to operate will become more available to businesses and individuals – meaning fuel cell stacks will play an increasingly prominent role in the future clean energy economy.
This transition to a future clean energy economy depends on renewable energy education programs that seek to train the next generation of leaders in this field.
Fuel Cell Stacks or Battery Power: Which Technology is Better for Clean Energy?
When it comes to deciding between fuel cells and batteries, it is crucial to take into account your specific energy needs and intended application. Batteries are more suitable for applications that require scalability, portability and convenience, such as portable electronics. Fuel cell stacks, however, are the best choice for situations that require efficiency, versatility, and ultra-low emissions, such as transportation, stationary power generation, and industrial processes.
As the world transitions to clean energy – the choice between fuel cell stacks and battery power will become increasingly important for businesses and individuals looking for the latest clean energy technology.
Interested in learning more about fuel cell stacks? Check out our: Ultimate Guide to Fuel Cells
How Fuel Cells and Batteries Work Together in Zero-Emission Transport [Interview]
Today, we’re interviewing Christophe Gurtner, Chairman and CEO at Forsee Power. Forsee Power is focused on mitigating climate change by providing zero-emission lithium-ion battery systems for the electromobility markets.
In October 2021, Ballard and Forsee announced a long-term strategic partnership to develop and commercialize integrated fuel cell and battery solutions for heavy duty vehicles. In today’s conversation, Christophe discusses the Ballard partnership, why batteries and fuel cells are both essential to the zero-emission transition, and more.
Let’s get started with our discussion with Christophe Gurtner.
Christophe, can you tell us a bit about yourself? What is your area of expertise and what are you passionate about?
Creating batteries for mobility for tomorrow’s world is, of course, one of my big passions. At Forsee Power. we make battery systems for heavy vehicles, such as buses, trucks, boats, trains, and for light vehicles, such as scooters, three-wheelers, and light four-wheelers. We’ve been doing this for 10 years now.
Forsee Power is a company that’s built its reputation on battery electric power. Why did you now decide to partner with Ballard, a fuel cell manufacturer?
Because these two worlds are very complementary. Both batteries and fuel cells are necessary. Batteries are especially good for short distances and fuel cells are a very good solution for long distances. This means that these two worlds need to work closely together. Once we reach cost efficiency and total efficiency, there won’t be a need for any subsidy.
Double deck bus by Wrightbus powered by Forsee Power’s PULSE 2.5 modules
How long will it take to get to that zero-subsidy plateau?
It’s hard to say for sure, but I believe that probably 10 years from now we’ll be there, and 10 years will pass very fast.
What are some of the challenges that need to be overcome in North America for the widespread adoption of fuel cell powered battery electric vehicles?
I think there are two challenges. The first challenge is infrastructure. In reality, it’s one big issue—it’s an issue for just batteries, and an even bigger one for fuel cells. So this is where governments have a key role to play. The second challenge is in regard to the vehicle itself. The whole fuel cell system works well, so now the question of total cost of ownership is paramount. Systems need to become cheaper and last as long as legacy technologies.
Can you tell us about the scope of Forsee Power’s collaboration with Ballard?
In a fuel cell system, the fuel cell and battery work together and both need to be optimized. On top of that, optimizing the DC converter which fits into the whole system, and the energy management system is essential. So we are working together with Ballard on bringing a new optimized system to market which will, of course, be advantageous to end-users.
Foresee Power’s 2.5 kWh high-power extra-slim module for the fast-charging option
Is that something that Forsee Power provides engineering services for?
Our FOCUS is purely on battery power. One of the nice things about the collaboration with Ballard is that Ballard is now able to do the fuel cell integration. So of course it’s making the job much easier for us and for Ballard.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share with Ballard’s readers?
What we see worldwide, is that the level of knowledge our customers have is very limited. As an industry, we need to do a lot of education to explain that it’s not just a question of price or a nice-looking product. It’s a question of performance, safety, and lifetime cost, and to achieve that is very difficult. It’s complex work and you need to have very highly skilled partners with advanced technology. Both Ballard and Forsee Power have been in the market for a very long time and we’ve proven over the years that what we do is working and it’s safe.
Solutions for Batteries Fuel Cells
Electrical energy generating (fuel cell) or energy storage devices (batteries) are commonly used to provide the propulsion energy required in electrical vehicles. The batteries are also commonly used for portable electronics and are growing in popularity for military and aerospace applications.
Design of these energy generating and storing components in terms of efficiency, lifetime, cost, size, weight, and also fuel economy is a complex task. It is challenging due to the multitude of physical phenomena that need to be simultaneously optimized in order to achieve proper fuel cell operation, the multitude of design objectives that need to be optimized, and the large amount of computational resources necessary to solve the governing equations of a fuel cell.
Multidisciplinary Automation Multi-Objective Optimization
Battery and fuel cells design process might require multiple software solutions covering all involved disciplines including chemistry materials, fluid dynamic, electronics, thermal, costing etc. Therefore, engineers need generic methods able to adapt to any software and data environment. pSeven provides the advanced automation integration capabilities to integrate any conventional CAD/CAE software in an optimization workflow to ensure that the tools used by different disciplines can share data efficiently, which is necessary for the efficient multi-Objective optimization.
Design strategy is usually based on multilevel analysis: fuel cell, or single component level, and then system level involving all disciplines and components. The behavior of the component can be captured in predictive models which can subsequently be integrated at a system level. Predictive modeling techniques based on Machine Learning and AI become a key enabler, because they produce fast mathematical representation of a component behavior. Such techniques must be efficient to produce good quality model in a potentially challenging, hence expensive nonlinear design space. High cost is related to the heavy simulations in the high dimensional space or to the expensive physical experiments on the testbed.
To generate samples on which further predictive models are built, an advanced Design of Experiments technique, called Adaptive DoE, is available in pSeven. DoE techniques allow to select inputs at which outputs of the model are measured to explore design space or to get as much information as possible about the model behavior using a small number of observations. Adaptive DoE considers model behavior before adding new points and takes into account linear and non-linear constraints of the model.
This approach works well for heavy simulation models and saves significant amount of simulation runs while obtaining uniform feasible sample of given size. It has proved its efficiency in case of heavy simulations models when the limited budget of evaluations is crucial.
Adaptive DoE allows building of accurate predictive model for a minimal number of simulation or physical experiment.
Once the adaptive DoE has been performed, a predictive model can be built using advanced Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence algorithms available in pSeven. Such algorithms are based on the proprietary advanced technique and made affordable to any engineer thanks to a special abstraction layer called “SmartSelection”. That layer will free engineers from selection and tuning of algorithms, resulting in the development cycle reduction.
pSeven can build predictive model even by combining data samples from different sources thanks to the embedded Data Fusion (DF) technique. DF can in ex. leverage data sample coming from High Fidelity simulation, with Low Fidelity simulation and with experiments datasets. So, all datsources representing the component behavior, whatever fidelity level, are leveraged.
When predictive models are ready, they can be assembled at a higher level for System Simulation. The assembly of models can be achieved within pSeven in a native format, or models can be exported in a neutral format, like: FMI, C / C#, Excel, Matlab-Octave, for multidisciplinary analysis outside of pSeven using Systems Engineering frameworks.
Recording of the Presentation Optimization of Microstructure Properties for Lithium-Ion Secondary Batteries using GeoDict
Presentation by Kenta Aoshima, Engineer, SCSK, RIO Shimojou, Sales Representative, SCSK
Webinar Recording: Using pSeven for Optimization of the Ion Engine and Hydrogen Fuel Cells
This webinar will bring you up to speed on two case studies performed with the use of pSeven by Skoltech for its customers.
Optimization and Prediction of Microstructure Properties for Lithium-Ion Secondary Batteries
Optimization of lithium-ion batteries microstructure to improve their overall performance and using Data Fusion to build accurate predictive models of battery properties for different applications without heavy simulations.
by Kenta Aoshima, SCSK Corporation, translated from Japanese by Yulia Bogdanova, DATADVANCE
Visualized: Battery Vs. Hydrogen Fuel Cell
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Battery Electric Vs. Hydrogen Fuel Cell
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Since the introduction of the Nissan Leaf (2010) and Tesla Model S (2012), battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) have become the primary FOCUS of the automotive industry.
This structural shift is moving at an incredible rate—in China, 3 million BEVs were sold in 2021, up from 1 million the previous year. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the number of models available for sale is expected to double by 2024.
In order to meet global climate targets, however, the International Energy Agency claims that the auto industry will require 30 times more minerals per year. Many fear that this could put a strain on supply.
“The data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals.” – Fatih Birol, IEA
Thankfully, BEVs are not the only solution for decarbonizing transportation. In this infographic, we explain how the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) works.
How Does Hydrogen Fuel Cell Work?
FCEVs are a type of electric vehicle that produces no emissions (aside from the environmental cost of production). The main difference is that BEVs contain a large battery to store electricity, while FCEVs create their own electricity by using a hydrogen fuel cell.
Let’s go over the functions of the major FCEV components.
First is the lithium-ion battery, which stores electricity to power the electric motor. In an FCEV, the battery is smaller because it’s not the primary power source. For general context, the Model S Plaid contains 7,920 lithium-ion cells, while the Toyota Mirai FCEV contains 330.
Hydrogen Fuel Tank
FCEVs have a fuel tank that stores hydrogen in its gas form. Liquid hydrogen can’t be used because it requires cryogenic temperatures (−150°C or −238°F). Hydrogen gas, along with oxygen, are the two inputs for the hydrogen fuel cell.
Fuel Cell Stack and Motor
The fuel cell uses hydrogen gas to generate electricity. To explain the process in layman’s terms, hydrogen gas passes through the cell and is split into protons (H) and electrons (e-).
Protons pass through the electrolyte, which is a liquid or gel material. Electrons are unable to pass through the electrolyte, so they take an external path instead. This creates an electrical current to power the motor.
At the end of the fuel cell’s process, the electrons and protons meet together and combine with oxygen. This causes a chemical reaction that produces water (H2O), which is then emitted out of the exhaust pipe.
Which Technology is Winning?
As you can see from the table below, most automakers have shifted their FOCUS towards BEVs. Notably missing from the BEV group is Toyota, the world’s largest automaker.
Hydrogen fuel cells have drawn criticism from notable figures in the industry, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess.
Green hydrogen is needed for steel, chemical, aero,… and should not end up in cars. Far too expensive, inefficient, slow and difficult to rollout and transport. – Herbert Diess, CEO, Volkswagen Group
Toyota and Hyundai are on the opposing side, as both companies continue to invest in fuel cell development. The difference between them, however, is that Hyundai (and sister brand Kia) has still released several BEVs.
This is a surprising blunder for Toyota, which pioneered hybrid vehicles like the Prius. It’s reasonable to think that after this success, BEVs would be a natural next step. As Wired reports, Toyota placed all of its chips on hydrogen development, ignoring the fact that most of the industry was moving a different way. Realizing its mistake, and needing to buy time, the company has resorted to lobbying against the adoption of EVs.
Confronted with a losing hand, Toyota is doing what most large corporations do when they find themselves playing the wrong game—it’s fighting to change the game. – Wired
Toyota is expected to release its first BEV, the bZ4X crossover, for the 2023 model year—over a decade since Tesla launched the Model S.
Challenges to Fuel Cell Adoption
Several challenges are standing in the way of widespread FCEV adoption.
One is in-car performance, though the difference is minor. In terms of maximum range, the best FCEV (Toyota Mirai) was EPA-rated for 402 miles, while the best BEV (Lucid Air) received 505 miles.
Two greater issues are 1) hydrogen’s efficiency problem, and 2) a very limited number of refueling stations. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are just 48 hydrogen stations across the entire country, with 47 located in California, and 1 located in Hawaii.
On the contrary, BEVs have 49,210 charging stations nationwide, and can also be charged at home. This number is sure to grow, as the Biden administration has allocated 5 billion for states to expand their charging networks.