skip to main content

Tools for suppliers

Driving a sustainable future

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

As one of the world’s leading suppliers of PGMs, we see platinum-containing hydrogen powered Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), as an important innovation.

It is one that builds our future in a truly sustainable way through zero tailpipe emissions and the use of an endless fuel source − hydrogen. This development and its adoption across markets will ultimately benefit our people and our communities in a way that future generations will appreciate.

How do hydrogen-powered FCEVS work?

Hydrogen is an energy carrier and is the key to a future of sustainable motoring, making up approximately 75% of the universe we live in. When used in a fuel cell, it generates electricity via a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, which is then used to power the motor of a FCEV.

This creates energy much more efficiently than the chemicals used in gasoline. Although fossil fuels are going to remain a significant part of our energy mix, hydrogen will become increasingly important.

Each vehicle produces zero exhaust emissions. With only water vapour, warm air, and some hydrogen emitted through driving, the result is a truly sustainable motoring future

INSIdE a platinum catalyst

Platinum is one of the most effective and durable catalysts, enabling chemical reactions, which is why it is used as a catalyst in fuel cell technology.

FCEVs use roughly double the amount of platinum than an ICE and a small percentage of FCEVs can significantly impact the demand for platinum.

How it works

All FCEVs use a type of fuel cell known as the Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell [see diagram below]. This low-temperature, quick-start fuel cell runs off pure hydrogen and uses platinum and palladium at its heart.

  • Electrolyte: water-based, acidic polymer membrane
  • Also called polymer electrolyte member fuel cells
  • Use a platinum-based catalyst on both electrodes
  • Generally hydrogen fuelled
  • Operate at relatively low temperatures (below 100 oC)
  • High-temperature variants use a mineral acid-based electrolyte and can operate up to 200 oC
  • Electrical output can be varied, ideal for vehicles

How do FCEVS help meet emission targets?

Studies show the use of zero emissions Hydrogen FCEVs will increase as more stringent emissions targets drive technological change in the automotive industry. The use of platinum in FCEVs, as well as the predicted increase in vehicles using fuel cell technology, translates into an increased demand for platinum by the automotive industry. This innovative technology uses a platinum catalyst and runs solely on hydrogen, emitting only water from the tailpipe.

“To meet the ever more challenging emissions targets being set around the world, the use of zero emissions Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles will increase. We are actively supporting this new technology, which will stimulate future platinum demand,”
Andrew Hinkly, Executive Head of Marketing, Precious Metals, Anglo American.

Our work with Hyundai: the ix35 Fuel Cell

As part of the London Hydrogen Network Expansion project, we have leased a Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell for use in London over the next four years. This hydrogen fuelled, zero emissions car is part of a campaign to support the early adoption and commercial success of hydrogen powered Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) in the UK. While the development of the vehicles is progressed by the car manufacturers, our demonstration of the vehicle's capabilities aims to support the consumer and technology acceptance.

The start of a new era

The Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell is the first production line fuel cell car to be produced. This is a vehicle that runs solely on hydrogen, emitting clean water and zero pollutants. The first of its kind in many regards, the ix35 Fuel Cell marks the beginning of a new era of zero emission driving.

The anatomy of the Hyundai ix35

In creating the ix35 Fuel Cell, Hyundai’s engineers have ensured that the installation of the fuel cell stack, hydrogen tanks, batteries and other key control systems have not impacted the usability of the car.

The fuel cell is located under the bonnet. The high voltage battery and inverter system are housed in a waterproof casing underneath the vehicle and mid mounted for optimum weight distribution. The major components of the fuel cell itself are the negatively charged anode and a positively charged cathode, with a proton exchange membrane (or PEM) sandwiched between the two.

The main compartments of the ix35 Fuel Cell are the electric motor, battery and hydrogen tank.

1. Hydrogen stored in the tank is supplied to the fuel cell stack.
2. An inflow of air is supplied to the fuel cell stack.
3. The reaction of air with hydrogen in the fuel cell stack generates electricity and water.
4. Generated electricity is supplied to the electric motor.
5. Water is emitted.

When hydrogen stored in the hydrogen tank enters the fuel cell stack, it is broken down into protons and electrons. This flow of electrons created in the fuel cell is what provides electricity. The protons react with oxygen molecules in the air, generating heat and water. Electricity generated by the fuel cell is first transmitted to the inverter and then to the motor, which then creates power, turning the wheels, making the vehicle move.

The London Hydrogen Network Expansion (LHNE) project

The London Hydrogen Network Expansion (LHNE) project, which started in January 2013, aims to deliver a publically accessible, 700 bar fast-fill hydrogen fuelling station network London and the South East of England. The London Hydrogen Partnership has initiated more than £50 million worth of hydrogen projects. Its partners have been involved in the implementation of two existing refuelling stations as well as the operation of eight fuel cell London buses, which joined the Transport for London fleet, along with a number of hydrogen iconic London taxis.The project has a number of organisations working as a consortium, led by Air Products, supported by the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority.

Read more

"This is an immensely exciting initiative for us. As partners of the London Hydrogen Network Expansion project, we are striving to visibly support the adoption of new platinum technologies. We believe the use of fuel cells, in both static and mobile applications, will drive medium to longer-term demand for platinum. The innovation in fuel cell vehicles builds our future in a truly sustainable way for generations to come.”
Chris Griffith, CEO Anglo American Platinum.



The challenge of meeting reducing emission targets is reshaping the automotive industry and is a major global challenge. There is a limit to the extent to which tailpipe emissions from internal combustion engines can be further reduced. To meet emissions targets, electrification of the power-train (engine of the car) will have to occur.

Current studies suggest that Electric Vehicles will make up 40-95% of all vehicles using alternative power-trains by 2050.There is debate on whether Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) or FCEVs, both electric power-trains with zero tailpipe emissions, will make the most significant inroads into the current mix.

No vehicle is currently able to satisfy all of the criteria for economics, performance and the environment, which is why a McKinsey study (McKinsey: A portfolio of power-trains for Europe: a fact-based analysis) has indicated that over the next 40 years we will see a mix of power-trains, with BEVs gaining preference for shorter trips and FCEVs showing growth in larger cars for longer trips.

Find out more

Join us on our journey to secure the future of FCEVs and the future of platinum as a catalyst to this clean, sustainable solution. Follow our story on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

You can also learn more about FCEVs using the following links:

Real Mining. Real People. Real Difference.