9 Disadvantages of Fuel Cell that we need to also think of

The advantages of fuel cells are enormous; however, in this post, we’ll delve into some disadvantages of fuel cells that we need to also consider in our energy consumption.

People and countries all across the globe are becoming increasingly worried as climate challenges gather momentum. Governments all across the world are looking into more environmentally friendly and long-term power and energy generation sources.

Increased implementation of renewable technology, such as electric cars, is a good illustration of all this. Fuel cell technology is another innovation that is gathering popularity around the world.

A fuel cell is a device that generates electrical energy and thermal energy through the use of a fuel.  Fuel cells are electrochemical cells that transform the chemical energy of a fuel (usually hydrogen) and an oxidizing agent (usually oxygen) into electricity using a pair of redox reactions.

They are distinct from most batteries in needing a continuous fuel and oxygen source (regularly from the air) to maintain the chemical reaction.

In contrast to batteries, fuel cells are not energy storage devices, but energy converters.

From the outside, fuel cells hardly differ from combustion engines. Unlike an internal combustion engine, the fuel in the fuel cell is not burned but converted into electricity and heat using a chemical reaction.

Nowadays, fuel cells are used primarily for power supply. One of the advantages is their zero-emission operation thus serving as an environmentally friendly alternative to internal combustion engines. Another advantage is that the waste heat generated can easily be used for heating.

Fuel cells can also be used effectively in mobility. On the one hand, they provide high energy density while, on the other, permitting rapid refilling of the fuel tank.

In the commercial vehicle sector, fuel cells are an essential component of future mobility not as an alternative, but in combination with batteries. In applications where large amounts of energy are required and space comes at a premium, batteries alone face technical limitations.

The weight is high, as is the space requirement. For commercial applications and heavy-duty vehicles, this calls into question the everyday suitability of direct electrification via batteries.

A fuel cell is designed in a way that each fuel cell consists of 2 electrodes (anode and cathode) separated by an electrolyte. The electrodes are conductive for electrons, while the electrolyte is only permeable for a certain type of ions (electrically charged atoms).

Fuel cells can generate electricity continuously for as long as fuel and oxygen are provided. Like any source of energy, fuel cells have their advantages and disadvantages. However, in this article, we are going to present in detail the disadvantages of fuel cells, you’ll need to consider in your use of fuel cells.

Disadvantages of Fuel Cell

9 Disadvantages of Fuel Cell

Debates continue regarding fuel cells’ advantages and disadvantages, but despite current limitations, fuel cells, to a large extent, are still an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels and can be used to provide flexible and high-density power and propulsion for a wide range of industrial plants and modes of transportation.

However, there are some limitations to fuel that we need to consider.

Hence, listed and discussed below are some disadvantages, drawbacks, and challenges of fuel cells.

  • Removal of Hydrogen
  • Investment for Development
  • Collection of Hydrogen
  • Extremely Flammable
  • Raw Materials Cost
  • Overall Expenditure
  • Foundation
  • Regulatory Issues
  • Difficulties in Administration

1. Removal of Hydrogen

Despite being the most abundant element in the Universe, hydrogen does not exist on its own; it must be collected from the liquid through electrolysis or separated from carbon fossil fuels.

Each of these methods necessarily requires a significant amount of energy to accomplish. This energy can be more than that acquired from the hydrogen itself, as well as being exorbitant.

Moreover, this removal usually necessitates using fossil fuels, undermining hydrogen’s environmental efficiency due to the apparent lack of carbon capture and storage.

2. Investment for Development

Hydrogen fuel cells need financing to be developed to the point where they become a genuinely viable power source. This will also require the political will to spend money and time on development to enhance and develop the technology.

But then, the global challenge or roadblock to developing sustainable and widespread hydrogen energy is how best to build the supply and demand chain in the most cost-effective manner and quantity system.

3. Collection of Hydrogen

The transportation and storage of hydrogen is much more difficult than transporting and storing natural gas and coal.

As a result, there are extra expenses involved when using fuel cells as a power source.

4. Extremely Flammable

Hydrogen is a highly flammable fuel source, which demands a high level of safety attention.

Hydrogen gas ignites in the atmosphere at concentrations ranging from 4 to 75 percent, hydrogen gas ignites in the atmosphere.

5. Raw Materials Cost

Raw materials such as iridium and platinum are typically needed as catalysts in fuel cells and some water electrolyzer types, which indicates that the initial cost of fuel cells and water electrolysis can be exorbitant.

This high cost prevents some individuals from investing in fuel cell technology. Such costs require to be reduced to make fuel cells a viable fuel source for all.

Hence, to make fuel cells a viable and feasible source of energy for everyone, these prices must be reduced.

6. Overall Expenditure

Compared to other sources of power including solar energy, fuel cells currently cost more per unit of energy. However, there could be a switch as technology develops; this cost is a limitation to hydrogen’s general use even though it is more effective once created, even though it is more efficient after being generated.

This expenditure impacts future prices, such as with the price of hydrogen-powered vehicles, causing widespread acceptance difficult at the moment.

7. Foundation

As fossil fuels have been used for decades, the framework for this power source already exists.  The widespread acceptance of fuel cell technology for automotive applications will demand a new resupply infrastructure.

However, for long-distance applications such as those for delivery vehicles and HGVs, start-to-end fueling could be utilized.

8. Regulatory Issues

There are also regulatory problems concerning the framework representing commercial deployment models.

Without clear regulatory frameworks to permit commercial projects to understand their cost and revenue basis, commercial projects can struggle to attain a financial investment decision (FID).

9. Difficulties in Administration

There are further constraints imposed by regulatory issues involved in its functioning that reflect industrial application scenarios.

Commercial ventures may strive to maintain an economic investment strategy if there are no specific legal structures to allow them to achieve their cost and benefit objectives.


These challenges of fuel cells validate the fact that we still need to further our work in the use of fuel cells to realize the full potential of fuel cells as a key enabler for a future decarbonized energy system and fundamental solution for our global energy requirements, as well as help to protect and conserve the environment.


Environmental Consultant at Environment Go! | + posts

Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.

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