Development of Low-Cost, High Performing and Durable PEM Fuel Cells (Phase I)

Urban transit emissions have the highest impact environmentally and socially, especially on the health hazard of the urban population. This study focuses on zero-emission fuel cell technology that can be used in: fuel-cell power/propulsion systems; battery electric power/propulsion systems with fuel cell as ranger extenders; and electric power/propulsion systems with battery- fuel cell electric hybrids. The research focuses on proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technology and the technical challenges involving cost and durability under variable load operations.

Advanced high performance/low life-cycle cost PEM fuel cell technology will be achieved via approaches that develop and combine advanced catalyst(s) layers with highly active and stable materials. Additionally, increased tolerance to fuel impurities, through developing contaminant-resistant catalysts, is a key enabler for lower cost systems and deployment of fuel cells  in a broader global market. The advanced technologies include: (1) hybrid Pt/active support catalyst; (2) high activity shaped Pt nanoparticles; and (3) non-precious metal catalysts. Core technology outcomes include composition, design, structural optimization, and fabrication of catalysts, catalyst inks, catalyst layers and membrane-electrode assemblies (MEAs).

The potential for indirect GHG reductions is enormous, as fuel cells are zero- emission power sources with high energy efficiency. The outcomes of this project will contribute to “greening” the urban transit and transportation sector, by producing fuel cell technology capable of replacing the traditional internal combustion engines, thereby greatly reducing emissions from urban transportation activities. Currently, transportation represents 23 per cent of the total GHG emissions in Canada (and approximately the same on  a global scale), or approximately 200 MT per year of CO2 equivalent for Canada alone, hence the potential for this technology to substantially reduce Canada’s GHG emissions is significant.

Project Partners:



University of Waterloo Western University