Hydrogen fuel cells have been around for decades now. NASA has used hydrogen fuel cells in manned spacecraft to provide onboard energy for the vehicle and drinking water for the astronauts. In 1966, the GM Electrovan was the first vehicle to use a hydrogen fuel cell to power the wheels.
But, hydrogen fuel cells (often called proton exchange membrane or PEM fuel cells) have come a long way since then in both the mobile and stationary marketplace. For instance, developing a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle used to cost the large automakers several million dollars apiece. Now, the prices are considerably lower. In fact, there is a fuel cell bus in the UK being developed that is expected to cost around $190,000 when it rolls out.
The price of stationary hydrogen fuel cells has also come down considerably. Sure, you may still spend several hundred thousand dollars or more for a stationary fuel cell to power your corporate data center. But, smaller portable stationary hydrogen fuel cells are also starting to make headway in the market. Fuel cells for laptops, cell phones and other small electronic devices keep rolling out right and left.
For the emergency power market, Horizon and Millennium Cell have teamed up to rollout a portable hydrogen fuel cell for under $400. In fact, I came across this page from HiTech that lists many fuel cells from hundreds of dollars to the tens of thousands of dollars depending upon the size and application.
For the critics who keep saying that hydrogen fuel cells are too expensive, it’s time to take another look. The price of hydrogen fuel cells keeps falling and their scope is widening. In the future, your home, car, cell phone, laptop and all portable devices just may be powered by hydrogen fuel cells. And, this will be a very clean and green future indeed.