Hydrogen fuel cells don’t work quite like petroleum-based combustion engines, which rely on heat and power to create energy.
A fuel cell is made up of a stack, “a sandwich of anodes, cathodes and other high-tech materials,” as HowStuffWorks.com’s Ed Grabianowski explains. Liquid hydrogen fuel enters around the anodes, where electrons attached to the hydrogen are separated from the atoms themselves. An electrolyte within the fuel cell allows hydrogen protons to pass through, but not the electrons. When the hydrogen atoms reach the other side of the fuel cell, the cathode, it binds with oxygen, creating heat and water vapor.