Many people get confused by the difference between a battery and a fuel cell. Both can be used as sources of power – but in different ways.
The biggest difference between the two is that a battery stores energy, while a fuel cell generates energy by converting available fuel. A fuel cell can have a battery as a system component to store the electricity it’s generating.
The electrical energy contained within a battery is either from the factory where it was made, or from charging the battery via an outlet. If your battery dies, you are dependent on either being near a source of electricity to re-charge, or near a store to buy a new one.
A fuel cell is different. It takes an energy source, such as propane, diesel or natural gas, and converts it into electrical energy. As long as you have access to your energy source, you have access to electricity any time you need it – wherever you may be. Whether you are at sea, out camping, in an emergency situation or when the neighborhood power goes out, you can use a fuel cell to create your own electricity.
Some people have back-up generators for emergency situations. A typical generator that you might buy at a home improvement store “combusts” the fuel source to create electricity. Essentially, there is a small explosion as the fuel is combusted. That explosion moves a piston, converting chemical energy to mechanical, and then through a series of mechanical steps electricity is produced. Combustion engines have changed little since they were invented over a hundred years ago. By combusting the fuel to make electricity, generators create a lot of noise, smoke, exhaust and toxic fumes. They also tend to be large, heavy and unwieldy.
Unlike a generator, a fuel cell directly “converts” an energy source into electricity through a chemical reaction – one step rather than multiple steps. This allows a fuel cell to remain efficient, quiet and clean.
Since a fuel cell “converts” a fuel’s chemical energy rather than “combusts” the fuel the way a generator does, the result is a fuel cell that can create clean electricity, efficiently and effectively.
When it comes to power, portability is a big factor. A 20 lb. propane tank can be converted into nearly 3400 amp hours of power. In comparison, a standard lead acid battery, weighing about 60 lbs., has only 80 amp hours. A boater would need approximately 80 plus batteries to match the amp hour rates – a very expensive boat anchor at $190 for each battery. The portable fuel cell system weighs less than 30 lbs.
With a portable fuel cell, such as the innovative ones being developed by WATT Fuel Cell, you can hand-carry the fuel cell with you. From camping, to sailing, to storms, to remote locations and power outages, you can create your own electricity, anywhere, any time.
With a portable fuel cell, creating electricity is easy. You attach a fuel source such as a propane tank or canister, press a switch and start charging your batteries quietly and efficiently. No more dead batteries. Electronic devices and electrical systems are up and running.