An accurate low order model (MVM, Mean Value Model) that captures the main water transport mechanisms through the components of a PEM Fuel Cell was developed. Fast simulation time was achieved through a lumped approach in modeling space-dependent phenomena. Evaporation and capillarity were assumed to be the predominant mechanisms of water flow through the gas diffusion media. The model innovative features are not only to simulate the water transport inside the porous media with relative simplicity but also to simulate the water transport at the interface between gas diffusion layer and gas flow channel. In order to preserve a light computational burden, the complex air flow–droplets interaction was modeled with several simplifying assumption and with the support of measured data. The physics that characterizes the single droplet-air flow interaction was analyzed with an experimental apparatus constructed to study the droplet growth and detachment process. Furthermore, the experimental findings were exploited to feed the numerical model with the missing theoretical information and empirical sub-models to guarantee accuracy. Thanks to the fast computational time of the mean value approach followed, the model is suitable for fuel cell design and optimization as well as diagnosis and control strategies development studies.

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