Fuel Cells in Use

Stationary Power Potential Applications

In 2012, Connecticut consumed the equivalent of 145.83 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy from residential, industrial, and commercial sectors. Overall electricity demand is forecasted to grow at a rate of 1.1 percent annually over the next decade.

This demand represents approximately 25 percent of the population in New England and 25 percent of the region’s total electricity consumption. The state relies on both in-state resources and imports of power, with approximately 8,700 megawatts (MW) of total generation capacity; 27 percent of the total capacity in New England. Demand for new electric capacity is expected due in part to the replacement of older less efficient base-load generation facilities. Fuel cell technology has high value and opportunity to meet grid needs and to replace older generation facilities with high efficiency generation located directly at the customer’s site. Distributed generation will increase efficiency, improve end user reliability, provide opportunity for combined heat and power (CHP), and reduce emissions. Targets for CHP distributed generation (DG) include schools, hospitals and other mission critical facilities.

Transportation Applications

As oil and other non-sustainable hydrocarbon energy resources become scarce, energy prices will increase and the reliability of supply will be reduced. Government and industry are now investigating the use of hydrogen and renewable energy as a replacement of hydrocarbon fuels in the transportation section, which accounts for 32 percent of Connecticut’s total energy consumption. As these system sizes and applications increase efficiency will increase resulting in more favorable economics and increased reliability. Targets for FCEV deployment and hydrogen infrastructure development include public/private fleets, bus transit, and specialty vehicles. Zero emission FCEVs could replace existing conventional fleet vehicles in Connecticut. FCEVs have advantages over conventional technology and can reduce price volatility, decrease dependence on oil, improve environmental performance, and provide greater efficiencies, as follows:

  • Replacement of gasoline-fueled passenger vehicles, light duty trucks, and diesel-fueled transit buses with FCEVs could result in annual CO2 emission reductions (per vehicle) of approximately 10,170, 15,770, and 182,984 pounds per year, respectively.
  • Replacement of gasoline-fueled passenger vehicles, light duty trucks, and diesel-fueled transit buses with FCEVs could result in annual energy savings (per vehicle) of approximately 230 gallons of gasoline (passenger vehicle), 485 gallons of gasoline (light duty truck) and 4,390 gallons of diesel (bus).
  • Replacement of gasoline-fueled passenger vehicles, light duty trucks, and diesel-fueled transit buses with FCEVs could result in annual fuel cost savings of approximately $885 per passenger vehicle, $1,866 per light duty truck, and $17,560 per bus.

Automakers are now making plans to comply with a ZEV program, which is modeled after the California ZEV Action Plan. Eight (8) states have committed and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) requiring large-volume automakers to sell approximately 3.3 million ZEVs between 2018 and 2025, 1.24 million of which are defined as “ZEVs (Electric and/or Hydrogen Fuel Cells)”. Additionally, a 2012 Preliminary Study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) projects deployment of approximately 117,000 to 205,000 FCEVs in the Northeast region by 2025. Automakers have indicated that they plan to introduce hydrogen FCEVs by 2015. As one of the eight states that has signed this MOU, Connecticut has the potential of deploying approximately 80,000 FCEVs by 2025. The expected result of this deployment will be high efficiency vehicles that require less fuel and produce very low or zero tailpipe emissions.


There are over 9,500 passenger fleet vehicles classified as non-leasing or company owned vehicles in Connecticut. Passenger vehicles at transportation hubs are good candidates for hydrogen fueling and conversion to FCEVs because they mostly operate on fixed routes or within fixed districts and are fueled from a centralized station. As illustrated in “Connecticut: Potential Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Applications for Transportation,” the fleet clusters in Connecticut are located primarily in the Bridgeport, Danbury, Hartford, New Haven, and Stamford areas.

Bus Transit

There are approximately 670 buses that provide public transportation services in Connecticut. Although the efficiency of conventional diesel buses has increased, these buses, which typically achieve fuel economy performance levels of 3.9 miles per gallon, have the greatest potential for energy savings by using high efficiency fuel cells. Fuel cell buses are currently in use in several states, with many on public bus routes in California. Fuel economy performance levels for the fuel cell powered buses average 6.8 mi/DGE (diesel gallon equivalent).
Specialty Vehicles

Specialty vehicles, such as material handling equipment, airport tugs, street sweepers and wheel loaders, are used by a variety of industries, including manufacturing, construction, mining, agriculture, food, retailers, and wholesalers. Batteries that currently power some equipment for indoor use are heavy and take up significant storage space while only providing up to six (6) hours of run time. Fuel cell powered equipment has zero emissions, can be operated indoors, may last more than twice as long (12-14 hours) before refueling, can be refueled quickly, and eliminates the need for battery storage and charging rooms. Fuel cell powered material handling equipment is already in use at dozens of warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing plants in North America. Large corporations that are currently using or planning to use fuel cell powered material handling equipment include CVS, Coca-Cola, BMW, Central Grocers, and Wal-Mart.


Hydrogen Infrastructure

Hydrogen refueling stations will be required to support FCEVs including FCEV fleets, buses, material handling equipment, etc. Hydrogen refueling can be developed privately or publically depending on usage. While costs for hydrogen refueling infrastructure could range from $1,000,000 – $3,000,000 per station, it is possible that construction of these stations could be backed by private sector financing or developed publicaly in conjunction with high efficiency ZEV fleets. H2USA and the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) are currently developing hydrogen infrastructure models for financing and development to serve projected FCEV fleets. Potential sites for development include existing refueling stations, but new potential sites are also possible.


Portable Power

Fuel cells can be used to power a variety of portable devices, from handheld electronics such as cell phones and radios to larger equipment such as portable generators. Other potential applications include laptop computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and handheld video cameras-almost any application that has traditionally used batteries. These fuel cells have the potential to last more than three times as long as batteries between refueling. In addition to these smaller applications, fuel cells can be used in portable generators, such as those used to provide electricity for portable equipment.

Source: U.S. Dept of Energy