Fuel cells are being considered increasingly as a viable alternative energy source for automobiles because of their clean and efficient power generation. Numerous technological concepts have been developed and compared in terms of safety, robust operation, fuel economy, and vehicle performance. However, several issues still exist and must be addressed to improve the viability of this emerging technology. Despite the relatively large number of models and prototypes, a model-based vehicle design capability with sufficient fidelity and efficiency is not yet available in the literature. In this article we present an analysis and design optimization model for fuel cell vehicles that can be applied to both hybrid and non-hybrid vehicles by integrating a fuel cell vehicle simulator with a physics-based fuel cell model. The integration is achieved via quasi-steady fuel cell performance maps, and provides the ability to modify the characteristics of fuel cell systems with sufficient accuracy (less than 5% error) and efficiency (98% computational time reduction on average). Thus, a vehicle can be optimized subject to constraints that include various performance metrics and design specifications so that the overall efficiency of the hybrid fuel cell vehicle can be improved by 14% without violating any constraints. The obtained optimal fuel cell system is also compared to other, not vehicle-related, fuel cell systems optimized for maximum power density or maximum efficiency. A tradeoff between power density and efficiency can be observed depending on the size of compressors. Typically, a larger compressor results in higher fuel cell power density at the cost of fuel cell efficiency because it operates in a wider current region. When optimizing the fuel cell system for maximum power density, we observe that the optimal compressor operates efficiently. When optimizing the fuel cell system to be used as a power source in a vehicle, the optimal compressor is smaller and less efficient than the one of the fuel cell system optimized for maximum power density. In spite of this compressor inefficiency, the fuel cell system is 9% more efficient on average. In addition, vehicle performance can be improved significantly because the fuel cell system is designed both for maximum power density and efficiency. For a more comprehensive understanding of the overall design tradeoffs, several constraints dealing with cost, weight, and packaging issues must be considered.

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