The conventional hydrogen fuel cell is clean, but expensive, since it uses rare metals to maintain the longevity of the cell.
Current hydrogen fuel cell technology uses a rare-metal impregnated PEM (proton exchange membrane) that keeps the two halves of the system apart and generates electrical current. Hydrogen protons pass through the PEM, but the electrons are forces through the electrical system, to be reunited with protons on the other side. Because the PEM is so expensive, it drives the price of its vehicle up as well. This makes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, in spite of their emissions-free attractiveness, a difficult financial proposition for most people.
A different kind of hydrogen fuel cell, developed by Mantra, could make these vehicles cheaper by eliminating the most expensive part of the fuel cell, the PEM. Mantra’s MRFC (mixed-reactant fuel cell) was developed at the University of British Columbia, and runs whatever hydrogen-rich fuel and an oxidant in a single stream. The resulting hydrogen fuel cell is simpler and more durable, and takes up less space than the conventional hydrogen fuel cell.
This year, Mantra is developing a prototype hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, based on the mixed-reactant fuel cell, the first time it has been put into an automotive application. Using non-rare-earth-metal catalysts and a more energy-dense design, the Mantra fuel cell vehicle promises to be cheaper, more reliable, and more efficient, than conventional hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Image © Mantra Energy