Comparison of Fuel Cell Technologies

You are here

Each fuel cell technology has advantages and challenges. See how fuel cell technologies compare with one another. This comparison chart is also available as a fact sheet.

Fuel Cell TypeCommon ElectrolyteOperating TemperatureTypical Stack SizeElectrical Efficiency (LHV)ApplicationsAdvantagesChallenges

Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM)

Perfluorosulfonic acid

<120°C

<1 kW–100 kW

60% direct H2;a
40% reformed fuelb

Backup power

Portable power

Distributed generation

Transportation

Specialty vehicles

Solid electrolyte reduces corrosion and electrolyte management problems

Low temperature

Quick start-up and load following

Expensive catalysts

Sensitive to fuel impurities

Alkaline (AFC)

Aqueous potassium hydroxide soaked in a porous matrix, or alkaline polymer membrane

<100°C

1–100 kW

60%c

Military

Space

Backup power

Transportation

Wider range of stable materials allows lower cost components

Low temperature

Quick start-up

Sensitive to CO2 in fuel and air

Electrolyte management (aqueous)

Electrolyte conductivity (polymer)

Phosphoric Acid (PAFC)

Phosphoric acid soaked in a porous matrix or imbibed in a polymer membrane

150°–200°C

5–400 kW, 100 kW module (liquid PAFC)

<10 kW (polymer membrane)

40%d

Distributed generation

Suitable for CHP

Increased tolerance to fuel impurities

Expensive catalysts

Long start-up time

Sulfur sensitivity

Molten Carbonate (MCFC)

Molten lithium, sodium, and/or potassium carbonates, soaked in a porous matrix

600°–700°C

300 kW–3 MW,
300 kW module

50%e

Electric utility

Distributed generation

High efficiency

Fuel flexibility

Suitable for CHP

Hybrid/gas turbine cycle

High temperature corrosion and breakdown of cell components

Long start-up time

Low power density

Solid Oxide (SOFC)

Yttria stabilized zirconia

500°–1,000°C

1 kW–2 MW

60%f

Auxiliary power

Electric utility

Distributed generation

High efficiency

Fuel flexibility

Solid electrolyte

Suitable for CHP

Hybrid/gas turbine cycle

High temperature corrosion and breakdown of cell components

Long start-up time

Limited number of shutdowns

a NREL Composite Data Product 8, "Fuel Cell System Efficiency"
b Panasonic Headquarters News Release, "Launch of New 'Ene-Farm' Home Fuel Cell Product More Affordable and Easier to Install"
c G. Mulder et al., "Market-ready stationary 6 kW generator with alkaline fuel cells," ECS Transactions 12 (2008) 743-758
d Doosan PureCell Model 400 Datasheet
e FuelCell Energy DFC300 Product Specifications
f Ceramic Fuel Cells Gennex Product Specifications