Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Applications

Hydrogen is a sustainable and clean “energy carrier” that, when consumed in a fuel cell, produces only water, electricity, and heat.

In Canada, and around the world, hydrogen and fuel cells are being used to power a variety of devices, including:

  • Transportation – Passenger cars, buses (urban transit and school buses), trucks (urban delivery, refuse, drayage trucks near ports, distribution trucks, freight haulers), forklifts, airport ground support equipment, drones, planes, trains, boats (ships, ferries and pleasure craft)
  • Stationary – Primary power and heat for homes and buildings; emergency power for critical lighting, generator or other uses when regular systems fail; uninterrupted power supply (UPS) to provide instant protection from power outages
  • Portable – Consumer electronics; remote construction site equipment




Fuel Cell Electric Cars

Nothing will change the future of mobility more than the electrification of the powertrain to support ever-changing social behaviours and emission regulations. The vehicle of the future will use less fuel and emit lower emissions. 

While battery-powered cars are ideal for urban and short-distance travel, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are more suitable for longer distances, trailer towing, and quick refueling. 

Hydrogen fuel cell electric cars convert hydrogen from the fuel tank into electricity to power the vehicle’s electric motor. These vehicles have similar performance and acceleration to gasoline or diesel cars, with a range of up to 700 kilometres. 

In a recent survey of automotive industry executives in 43 countries, 77% predicted that fuel cell vehicles will be the real breakthrough for electric drivetrains. 

As of 2019, there are 11,000+ hydrogen fuel cell cars on roads worldwide, with existing government targets aiming for that to increase to 2.5 million by 2030. 

Fuel Cell Electric Trucks

Productivity Up, Emissions Down

The trucking sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases and urban air quality issues in many countries as almost all goods travel by truck from manufacturers to consumers.

While trucks represent only 10% of all vehicles on roads, they emit 40% of the carbon emissions, and this is projected to further increase due to the growth of e-commerce and other road freight activity to support increasing populations. 

Fuel cell range-extended trucks offer significant advantages over pure-battery electric trucks, as weight is the enemy of mileage in this application. Trying to gain range by adding more battery reduces the amount of payload a truck can carry. And the ability to refuel quickly is of great importance to truck fleets that cannot accommodate downtime with their freight patterns. 

A fuel cell range extended system is the ideal solution for heavy-duty vehicles as it extends the range of battery-electric systems using on-board hydrogen. In this hybrid format, the batteries help deliver peak power while during deceleration they recover energy through regenerative braking. The hybrid design improves operating performance and can fit into existing vehicle architectures without radical changes. Based on current operational data, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) could reach price parity or be lower than current diesel systems in the near future. 

While building a hydrogen infrastructure to support millions of fuel cell powered cars may be slower to develop, with heavy-duty buses and trucks, the infrastructure challenge for trucking is not as formidable as most commercial vehicles operate on fixed routes and return to base at the end of a shift. And you can refuel in approximately 15 minutes compared to a comparable pure-battery system that would take several hours. 


Around the world, electric buses have proved to offer a smooth and quiet passenger experience with zero tailpipe emissions, a welcome advantage when operating in city centers. As governments place increasingly strict regulations and restrictions on internal combustion engines, transit agencies and operators are looking at electric buses as the best option to transition their fleets to zero emissions. Compared to battery designs, hydrogen fuel cell buses are capable of driving 500+ kilometers (or 300+ miles) on a full tank versus 200 kilometers for a battery electric alternative. There is also no impact to range or operability in cold weather or on hilly terrains.   


Fuel cell trains can be deployed on non-electrified tracks or eliminate current diesel units. Hydrogen fueled trains would eliminate local emissions and improve passenger comfort through reduced noise and vibration, while also reducing the costs required to install alternative overhead high-voltage lines. 

Hydrail is a new term that describes rail vehicles which use on-board hydrogen to power the train’s electric traction motors. These vehicles are typically fuel cell hybrid systems, using batteries for improved efficiency and regenerative braking, thereby lowering the amount of hydrogen storage required. 

Potential applications include all types of rail transport: passenger, freight, mine railways, trams, and industrial railway systems.

Material Handling

Fuel cell forklifts are operating in warehouses and distributions centers across North America, providing a safer and healthier environment for employees. Using a hydrogen fuel cell system, the forklift can be fueled with hydrogen at an indoor station within the warehouse and be back in operation in minutes. Fuel cells typically replace battery-driven units, eliminating the need for the storage and handling of toxic materials associated with lead-acid batteries. Fuel cell powered forklifts provide consistent power, can operate up to three times the longer than their battery counterparts, have quick refueling, and they free up valuable warehouse space needed for battery recharging racks. Productivity up – emissions down!


The stationary sector ranges from small backup power systems, to large residential, industrial and primary power systems, or for combined heat and power systems. Each of these stationary fuel cell systems provide reliable, clean and quiet power as well as improved efficiencies, resiliency, reduced emissions and lower energy costs. As an example, fuel cells provided critical emergency backup power to telecommunications towers operating for hundreds of hours in both the Bahamas and the Northeast United States after Hurricane Sandy slammed the Caribbean and the East Coast in 2012. Fuel cells can offer significant cost advantages over battery-generator systems when shorter run-times of three days or less are sufficient. 


The maritime freight industry has become a major focus for the move towards zero emissions, especially since the 170 member-countries of the International Maritime Organization agreed to halve shipping emissions by 2050, compared to a 2008 baseline. The looming impact of this reduction and its ramifications will be an impetus for increased use of hydrogen fuel cells to power ships and port-related equipment.