Ulf Bossel is a well-known fuel cell technologist based in Switzerland. For years, he has been organizing the annual European Fuel Cell Forum in Lucerne, which has alternated every other year between focusing on PEM fuel cells and on solid oxide fuel cells.
At the end of this year’s show earlier in July, Bossel announced that “time has come for a critical assessment”: the biannual PEM conference will be discontinued. In his words:
“[Those who have worked on PEM fuel cells] have developed a magnificent technology, but the fuel needed to make it work is not offered by nature. We cannot solve the energy problem by wasting energy. The laws of physics speak against a hydrogen economy. Physics cannot be replaced by wishful thinking, or changed by presidential initiatives, research programs and venture capital.”
Partly from hearing Bossel a few years ago at a previous Lucerne conference, I’ve been quite bearish on PEM fuel cells for a while, not least for their reliance on hydrogen, which is tricky and therefore expensive to make, transport and store. Bossel’s acute skepticism on hydrogen-based PEMs is hard to refute. At least for mass-market applications, it’s hard to see a PEM future.
So, for those interested in PEM fuel cells, look before you leap!