Fuel cells are so expensive because they generally require large amounts of platinum, which acts as a catalyst. However, a cheaper polymer-electrolyte hydrogen fuel cell has recently been developed. These use more common metals like iron and cobalt as catalysts instead of the expensive platinum and work by converting hydrogen and oxygen into electricity.
The energy used to fuel a hydrogen-powered device such as a vehicle is also greater than the cost of just using a battery due to the fact that more energy is lost when converting the energy into different forms. Both hydrogen fuel cells and chemical batteries are recharged using electricity from the grid. However, hydrogen fuel cells are ultimately less efficient.
The materials in fuel cells for vehicles greatly outweigh the costs of processing the energy needed. The platinum anode catalyst, the carbon fiber lining for hydrogen storage and the stacking of individual cells in series contribute to the costs. The same applies to fuel cells for power plants, materials cost more then process and maintenance. While the process require less energy to start and require less money to keep running, the fuel cell design is still expensive.
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