Comparison Between Different Fuel Cells

Introduction: Fuel Cell

In this article, the comparison between polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell, phosphoric acid fuel cell, alkaline fuel cell, molten carbonate fuel cell and solid oxide fuel cell is given

Fuel Cell Comparison Parameters

  • Electrolyte
  • Operating temperature
  • Electrical Efficiency
  • Stack Size
  • Advantages & Disadvantages
  • Challenges
  • Applications

Comparison Between Fuel Cells

Fuel cell types




Fuel cell ( PEMFC )

Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cell

( PAFC )

Alkaline Fuel Cell ( AFC )

Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell         ( MCFC )

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell   ( SOFC )


Perfluoro sulfonic acid

Phosphoric acid soaked in porous matrix

Alkaline polymer membrane

Molten lithium sodium / potassium carbonates soaked in porous matrix

Yttria stabilized zirconia

Operating temperature

< 120 degree C

150 – 200 degree C

< 100 degree C

600 – 700 degree C

500 – 1000 degree C


Low weight and volume

Efficiency more than 85% when used for co-generation of electricity and heat


Lower carbonate formation as compared to liquid AFCs

Does not require external reformer to convert fuels as natural gas and biogas into hydrogen

High efficiency

Low temperature operation


Low operating temperature


Fuel flexibility

Solid electrolyte reduces corrosion and electrolyte management systems


Quick start up

Less cost as compared to alkaline, phosphoric and PEM fuel cells

Solid electrolyte

Quick start up and load following



Improved efficiency as compared to phosphoric acid fuel cell plant

Hybrid / gas turbine cycle

Disadvantages/ challenges

Expensive catalysts

Sensitive to fuel impurities


Long start up time


CO2 as byproduct which affect cell performance and durability

Less durable


High temperature operation leads to corrosion and breakdown of cell components

Addition cost required for reactor to reduce carbon monoxide


Carbon monoxide easily binds with platinum catalyst at the anode which decreases efficiency


Recirculate electrolyte operation reduce effect of carbonate formation on the electrolyte but increases corrosion and difficult to hand different pressure

Operate at higher temperature which leads to corrosion and breakdown of cell components




Higher cost due to platinum catalyst


Slow start up


Slow start up


Large size and heavy


Low power density

Transportation not possible


Sulphur sensitivity




Thermal shielding for personal protection


Portable power


Distributed generation

Military space


Electrical utility

Auxiliary power


Back-up power


Backup power

Distributed generation

Electric utility

Primarily used for transportation applications



Industrial and military operations

Distributed generation

Some stationary applications

Vehicles like cars, buses, and heavy-duty trucks





Electrical efficiency

60% direct





Stack size

< 1 to 100 kW


5 – 400 kW, 100 kw module ( liquid PAFC ) < 10 kW ( Polymer membrane )

1 – 100 kW

300 kW to 3 MW and 300 kW module


1 kW – 2 MW

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