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Is a fuel cell technically an energy storage device?

  1. Oct 5, 2012 #1
    I've heard fuel cells being called energy storage devices. However, unlike batteries, they only convert energy. They don't store anything unless you consider the brief moment of converting chemical energy to electrical energy storage time? Are there fuel cell types that store let's say hydrogen without the need of an auxiliary tank?

    Another thing, is a fuel cell car technically an electric car? I mean, much like a battery, a fuel cell provides a current to run an electric motor...
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 5, 2012 #2
    I personally would not classify a fuel cell as an energy storage device, because unlike a battery it requires a constant outside source of fuel and oxygen to operate. A fuel cell can be one component of an energy storage device, but is not in and of itself in my opinion. As to your other question, the consensus I see is that a fuel cell car is considered by most definitions an electric car. The main point seems to be what is driving the wheels--if it's an electric motor then it's an electric car. This sort of comes down to symantics, however--is a Chevy Volt an electric car when running on its gas engine? Since the engine runs a generator to run the electric motor propulsion system, then the answer is yes by the above definition. This as opposed to a Prius, which if memory serves allows a direct mechanical connection between the gas engine and the wheels and so is called a hybrid. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that...
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2012
  4. Oct 6, 2012 #3
  5. Oct 6, 2012 #4

    Drakkith

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    Staff: Mentor

    A fuel cell converts chemical energy from fuel into electrical energy. It is its own type of device. I was going to call it a generator until I looked up what a generator was and realized it converts mechanical energy into electrical energy, which is not what a fuel cell does. Calling a fuel cell an energy storage device is as incorrect as calling a generator an energy storing device.
     
  6. Oct 6, 2012 #5

    russ_watters

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    A fuel cell is one piece of an energy system. It, itself is not storing energy, but the overall system of hydrogen fuel cell energy does. The other components include a tank, a hydrogen generator and either a fossil fuel or electric power plant.
     
  7. Oct 6, 2012 #6

    russ_watters

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    Staff: Mentor

    That doesn't make sense. Fuel cells and tanks are two different things. Consider this: a gas stove may or my not utilize a local tank.
     
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