FUEL CELL COSTS
The cost of a fuel cell depends on its application and on the type of fuel cell technology. Fuel cells for automotive applications are expected to be the cheapest available. However, these may have shorter lifetimes than those aimed at large-scale stationary power generation or power and heat generation. Production volumes for the latter are likely to be much smaller too, so the economies of scale achieved from mass production of the former may not be available.
The cheapest fuel cells at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century are PEM fuel cells for automotive applications, which have a cost of around $50/kW, as shown in Table 7.2. This is based on a U.S. Department of Energy estimate for an 80 kW unit based on a volume production of around half a million each year.
For stationary applications including domestic heat and power generation and larger-scale power generation the system demands are more stringent and costs higher. Fuel cell stacks in the capacity range of 1–10 kW for domestic systems built from either PEM fuel cells or SOFCs cost around $750/kW, but these units require significant additional equipment and this pushes the unit cost for a complete installation to $1500–2000/kW.
Larger stationary applications, generally for both heat and power, can be met by large PAFC installations or large MCFC installations. For an installation around 1 MW, the cost is likely to be around $4000/kW. SOFC units can also be used for large stationary applications but current costs appear to be higher at
Alkaline fuel cells have generally been considered too expensive for all but niche applications. Representative costs are difficult to find for these units. The most cost effective appears to have a cost around $9000/kW. Most expensive of all, however, are DMFCs. Small units with capacities up to 100 W can be bought for around $5000, or roughly $50,000/kW.