Undergraduate Program > Senior Projects > EcoCAR 2

EcoCAR 2 Architecture

As we move towards energy efficient and alternative fuel sources for the next generation of personal vehicles, many people are unsure of the differences between electric hybrid and fuel cell technologies. While both technologies offer increased fuel efficiency over their traditional counterparts, there are some distinct differences between the two.

For example, a fuel cell plug-in hybrid car utilizes the same technology as a traditional hybrid vehicle with one major difference: a plug-in car uses the output of a fuel cell to power the motor and charge the car's battery. In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are combined in an electro-chemical reaction that creates electricity with only water as a by product. For this reason and because the car doesn't run on gasoline, fuel cell cars have zero emissions.

Producing zero emissions isn't the only advantage fuel cells have over traditional hybrids, though. Fuel cell vehicles also have higher motor efficiency in part because they use a process known as regenerative breaking, whereby energy created from applying the brakes is stored so that it can be reused by the motor later.

To the driver, fuel cell plug-in vehicles have the same performance and feel as traditional hybrid cars, but the fuel cell plug-in hybrid technology hidden under the hood is an innovative difference that is a step toward a healthier planet.

For more detailed information, check out fueleconomy.gov.