Just as there are different types of buildings for different types of businesses, different fuel cells have different operating characteristics that best serve the needs of different markets. Acquainting oneself with the different types of fuel cells can sometimes be confusing because there are several ways to categorize them. One way to look at fuel cells is to look at the purpose they serve. People within the fuel cell community typically speak about:
- Stationary fuel cells
can be used for primary (also called prime) baseload power generation,
backup power generation, and auxiliary power generation.
An additional distinction involves the amount of power generated by the stationary fuel cell system. Large stationary fuel cell systems generate hundreds of kilowatts to megawatts of power and are used on-site as primary sources of electricity and thermal loads. Small stationary fuel cells systems ― those that generate less than 100 kilowatts of electricity ― are used to provide backup power on-site or at remote locations and to provide electrical "hoteling" power for functions other than propulsion on vehicles.
- Fuel cells for portable applications such as cell phones, laptops, and MP3 players
- Fuel cells for automotive applications, such as those used in hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles
In California, members of the California
Fuel Cell Partnership
are working together to advance the commercialization
and acceptance of hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles.
In parallel, the California Stationary Fuel Cell Collaborative is working
to advance the commercialization of stationary fuel cell technologies.