Performance and Durability of Low Platinum and Platinum Group Metal-free Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells for Light and Heavy-Duty Vehicle Applications

D. Myers
Argonne National Laboratory,
United States

Keywords: polymer electrolyte fuel cells, vehicle, PEFC


Hydrogen-fueled polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) have long been considered as alternatives to the internal combustion engine for automotive propulsion power due to their high energy conversion efficiencies and benign emissions. Intensive worldwide efforts in materials development and system design and engineering have led to advancement of the technology to the level where light duty fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) became commercially available in December, 2014. The currently-available FCVs, however, have considerable cost to enable them to reach the 8,000 h target lifetime. Over the past five years, numerous platinum-based nanoparticle catalysts have been developed that meet the beginning-of-life electrocatalytic activity requirements. However, at the target loadings of these catalysts necessary to reach the cell cost targets, PEFCs suffer from poor performance at high current densities and loss of activity with voltage cycling. To address these issues, the U.S. Department of Energy established two national laboratory-led consortia. One consortia, Fuel Cell Performance and Durability (FC-PAD) has been focused on reaching performance and lifetime targets for PEFCs that also meet the platinum loading target of 0.125 mg-Pt/cm². Recently, the focus of FC-PAD has shifted to heavy duty vehicle applications where durability and efficiency requirements are more demanding than for the FCV application. In parallel with FC-PAD, DOE also established the Electrocatalysis Consortium (ElectroCat), focused on completely replacing platinum group metal electrocatalysts with electrocatalysts derived from earth-abundant materials, such as iron. An overview of the research in these two consortia will be presented, with an in-depth discussion of Argonne National Laboratory’s efforts in developing and characterizing PEFC electrocatalysts, supports, and electrodes.