Investments of over $1 B have been made for Fuel Cell R&D over the past five decades, for space and terrestrial applications; the latter includes military, residential power and heating, transportation and remote and portable power. The types of fuel cells investigated for these applications are PEMFCs (proton exchange membrane fuel cells), AFCs (alkaline fuel cells), DMFCs (direct methanol fuel cells), PAFCs (phosphoric acid fuel cells), MCFCs (molten carbon fuel cells), SOFCs (solid oxide fuel cells). Cell structure, operating principles, and characteristics of each type of fuel cell is briefly compared. The performances of fuel cells vs. competing technologies are analyzed. The key issues are which of these energy conversion systems are technologically advanced and economically favorable and can meet the lifetime, reliability and safety requirements. This paper reviews fuel cells vs. competing technologies in each application category from a scientific and engineering point of view.

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