THP-E07: Let’s Dive Into The World of Fuel Cells: How Do They Work, Who’s Making Them And Where You Can Find Them In The Future

April 29, 2021 • Paul Rodden • Season: 2021 • Episode: 7

Welcome to The Hydrogen Podcast!

In episode 007, I give a quick explanation of what fuel cells are and how they work. I also name a few companies that are quickly making in roads to build out the fuel cell infrastructure and discuss how it will benefit the transportation industry as a whole. There are a few companies flying under the radar that I predict will have a major impact and it will be worthwhile to keep an eye on them moving forward.

Thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy the podcast. Please feel free to email me at with any questions. Also, if you wouldn’t mind subscribing to my podcast using your preferred platform… I would greatly appreciate it.

Paul Rodden

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On today’s show, let’s dive into the world of fuel cells. How do they work? Who’s making them? Who’s using them and where you can expect to find them in the future?

So the big questions in the energy industry today are, how is hydrogen the primary driving force behind the evolution of energy? Where is capital being deployed for hydrogen projects globally? And where are the best investment opportunities for early adopters recognize the importance of hydrogen? I will address the critical issues and give you the information you need to deploy capital. Those are the questions that will unlock the potential of hydrogen. And this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Paul Rodden, and welcome to the hydrogen podcast.

When you’re talking about hydrogen, it’s almost impossible not to mention the impact fuel cells will have on the hydrogen space and in the future for transportation. So then what is a fuel cell? Well, a fuel cell works like a battery. But instead of running down or needing recharging, they generate electricity with fuel. And in our case, hydrogen and oxygen, a standard proton exchange membrane fuel cell, a PEM fuel cell has two electrodes surrounding some type of electrolyte. So when hydrogen is added into the system, the anode side of the fuel cell separates the hydrogen molecules into protons and electrons. The protons go one way the electrons go another way the electrons go, they go through an external circuit, and that generates electricity. And along with that electricity that gets produced is water and heat.

So that’s a very, very, very high level explanation about how a fuel cell works. Okay, so who’s making these things? Well, if you’ve listened to my episode on stocks, you know, I’ve talked a lot about Plug Power. Right now they definitely have the lion’s share of the fuel cell buzz. But there are some really big players in the space that aren’t getting nearly as much attention, mainly because they’re smaller offshoots of larger corporations.

Two of those being Cummins and Mitsubishi. Along with those you also have some relatively large companies like Bloom Energy, Doosan, Power Cell and Toshiba. Now, fuel cells aren’t exactly new. They’ve been used quite a while in industrial equipment. But over the last 30 years, the technology has continued to advance to the point where large auto manufacturers are beginning to invest heavily in the technology. Toyota and Hyundai are both making big strides in the automotive fuel cell market last year Hyundai announced that it will partner with European chemical giant INEOS, the partnership will most likely have Hyundai buying its hydrogen from INEOS. But even at an even larger scale, the South Korean government has planned on making over 6 million fuel cell vehicles and build at least 1200 refilling stations by 2040. Toyota is also making waves in the FC EV space.

Along with relaunching the Marai in California the Japanese automaker unveiled last month Victoria’s first hydrogen production and refueling facility, another great step forward for the Australian hydrogen industry. And while the buzz is certainly newsworthy for automotive fuel cells, there are other applications that are just as intriguing. Last year, Microsoft announced they were exploring the use of fuel cells for their data centers. Now historically, data centers have used diesel generator backups in case of power failure.

But as data centers are getting bigger and bigger, the requirement for diesel generator backups gets larger also. Not only does this mean more square footage from more diesel generators, it also means a higher carbon output if they’re running. Microsoft will begin testing this year using a three megawatt hydrogen fuel cell and the company has stated that they want to be entirely off diesel powered backup by 2030. So right now we’re seeing fuel cells being used in cars and data center backups. Where can we expect to see them in the future?

The quickest answer aviation. In an article just released by csr wire, Cummins helps first hydrogen powered aircraft take flight. For this project, Cummins partnered with several other organizations, including Holme university, DLR, H2fly Deal Aerospace, Pipistrelle, and others. The aircraft called the DLR HYFour is a four seater airplane and is now completed 32 hour test flights.

And while this is a demonstration project, the high four is a major step towards a more environmentally friendly aviation system. And even though the high four is only a four seater aircraft, experts believe that using this technology, you can use a one and a half megawatt hydrogen fuel cell which would allow up to 40 passengers for a distance of 2000 kilometers. Alright everyone, I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief intro into fuel cells. If you have any questions or comments, please visit our website at the hydrogen And as always, stay safe. Take care. I’ll talk to you later.

Hey, this is Paul. I hope you liked this podcast. If you did want to hear more, I’d appreciate it if you would either subscribe to this channel on YouTube, or connect with your favorite platform through my website at Thanks for listening. I very much appreciate it. Have a great day.

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