Jennifer Bauman believes that fuel-cell vehicles could be the cars of the future – but only if they can be made affordable.
Jennifer has a long history of work with fuel cells at Waterloo, first as a member of the Alternative Fuels Team and then as a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering. But she can sum up her years of work in one sentence: “I’m trying to make fuel-cell cars cheaper.”
Fuel cells are still far more expensive than internal-combustion engines or batteries. The key to more affordable fuel-cell cars, therefore, is using the smallest fuel cell possible. Current demonstration vehicles often have 80-kilowatt fuel cells. “But you only need 20 or 30 kilowatts for normal driving,” says Jennifer. “Is such a big fuel cell really the right approach?”
Better, she says, to use a smaller fuel cell, and make more use of an energy-storage device to provide additional power when it’s needed for tasks like accelerating, going uphill or towing a load. She’s designing the power electronics that will make that possible.
“There are many people trying to perfect fuel-cell vehicle technology,” she says, “but they often ignore costs. I think we have to remember that we’re talking about cars. Manufacturers want to make money, and consumers want a good deal.”