Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association


What is a Fuel Cell?

What is a Fuel Cell?

Hydrogen is a versatile fuel that can power almost anything. Fuel cells – an energy conversion device that can harness the power of hydrogen – are key to making it happen.

What is a fuel Cell?

What is a fuel Cell?

Check out this video for a brief description of a fuel cell.

A fuel cell produces electricity through a chemical reaction, but without combustion. It converts hydrogen and oxygen into water, and in the process also creates electricity. It’s an electro-chemical energy conversion device that produces electricity, water, and heat.

Fuel cells operates much like a battery, except they don’t require electrical recharging. A battery stores all of its chemicals inside and coverts the chemicals into electricity. Once those chemicals run out, the battery dies. A fuel cell, on the other had, receives the chemicals it uses from the outside; therefore, it won’t run out. Fuel cells can generate power almost indefinitely, as long as they have fuel to use.

The reactions that produce electricity happen at the electrodes. Every fuel cell has two electrodes, one positive, called the anode, and one negative, called the cathode. These are separated by an electrolyte barrier. Fuel goes to the anode side, while oxygen (or just air) goes to the cathode side. When both of these chemicals hit the electrolyte barrier, they react, split off their electrons, and create an electric current. A chemical catalyst speeds up the reactions here.

Benefits of fuel cells

Wherever you need power, a fuel cell could be the solution.

Environmental Performance

Since hydrogen fuel cells don’t produce air pollutants or greenhouse gasses, they can significantly improve our environment.

Health Benefits

Hydrogen fuel cells only produce heat and water – no toxins, particles, or greenhouse gasses, which means clearner air for us to breathe.

Energy Efficiency

Fuel cells are 2 to 3 times more efficient than combustion engines. For co-generation applications, where fuel cells generate both heat and electricity, efficencies can be close to 80%.

Fuel Flexibility

There are many types of fuel cells, and each can operate in a clean manner using different fuels including hydrogen, natural gas, methanol, ethanol, biogas.


Fuel cells are scalable, and provide everything from milliwatts to megawatts of power in a variety of uses - from cellphones, to cars, to entire neighbourhoods.


Fuel cells can readily be combined with other energy technologies, such as batteries, wind turbines, solar panels, and super-capacitors.