Simulation and Modeling of PEM Fuel Cells

Components and Systems

Performance, efficiency, durability, and costs under control - right from the start.

PEM Fuel Cell Simulation - AVL FIRE™ M

To develop a truly efficient and durable polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEMFC) system, engineers must have insights into the basis of the system - the cell. The transport of hydrogen and oxygen, the electrochemical reaction processes, the membrane structure, the aging mechanisms, the supply of each cell in the fuel cell stack, and much more are critical to energy density, efficiency, and durability. However, these goals are often in conflict to each other.

Learn how simulation tools and methods can help you deal with conflicting goals right from the start.

The driving force in development is to achieve the highest possible performance with the best possible durability and efficiency at the lowest possible cost. Sounds impossible? Especially since there are complex interrelationships behind these goals.

Once the system concept and the requirements for the subsystems and components have been defined, it's time for optimization. To obtain a perfectly functioning system, one must not only deal -with the design of the anode/cathode flow field, but also with the cooling channels and the coolant pressure loss optimization at  -cell and stack level. Further consideration must also be given to the membrane electron assembly (MEA) components and the media distribution plate.

At the system level, the balance-of-plant (BoP) components - selection and sizing of compressor, humidifier and ejector technology, the overall design of the cooling system and, of course, the calibration of the control strategy - can then be tuned.

Fuel Cell Simulation

Power Density

Requires optimizing the anode/cathode flow field and the cooling efficiency, starting with the cooling concept and channel design.


In addition to the conceptual design of the fuel cell system, the correct selection of the MEA, the reduction of the pressure drop in the coolant flow and the dimensioning of the BoP components are crucial.


A well cooled system, optimal media distribution and control strategy are key.


Physical development work and testing requires prototypes, test environments, time and manpower.

To minimize the risk of conflicts with regard to energy density, efficiency and durability, you can develop a fuel cell system holistically right from the start. Simulation is particularly suited to take these goals into account from the very first concept, well before there is even a prototype. 

Our single-platform solution enables the ideal interaction of 3D multi-physics CFD and system simulation. (Find out more) You can use the software from the first development steps throughout the entire V-process. Optimize efficiency and performance with consistent PEMFC stack power and degradation models. With the system simulation option, the development and calibration of FCCU functions in SiL and HiL environments is no problem thanks to the full real-time capability.

PEM Fuel Cell Simulation - AVL FIRE™ M 01

Scalable Simulation Solution

Accompanies you throughout the entire PEM fuel cell development process.

Consistent PEM Fuel Cell Stack Performance and Degradation Models

3D multi-physics and system simulation provide detailed information regarding the governing degradation processes.

Single-Platform Solution

Facilitates the sharing of data between tools and teams. Additionally supported by the common graphical user interface (GUI).

Degradation Models

Our CFD tool AVL FIRE™ M offers you a choice of degradation models:

  • Chemical-kinetic models for catalyst layer degradation.
  • Chemical-kinetic models for the aging of membranes (ionomer)
  • Semi-physical mechanical degradation model

Component Library

AVL CRUISE™ M, our system simulation software, provides you with realistic real-time component models for use in the various system domains. 

  • Balance-of-plant
  • Cooling system
  • Electrical, thermal and controls network

Balance-Of-Plant (Bop) Component Models

To enable you to design a system optimally, CRUISE M has scalable BoP components such as compressor, humidifier, water separator, injector/ejector, H2 tank and many more.

AVL White Paper - Virtual Fuel Cell Performance and Lifetime Optimization - From Component to Vehicle Level

Download our white paper to find out how AVL eSUITE™ helps OEMs and suppliers get the best performance and longest lifespan from this clean power source.

AVL Customer Case Study - Simulation of Fuel Cell Systems at ZBT

In the case of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) the configuration of the fuel cell system and the traction battery, interaction of the two components in terms of resulting performance, efficiency, and range are particularly crucial.


Due to its scope, AVL FIRE™ M can be described as all-purpose CFD software. However, it is mainly used for the development of all types of powertrains and their components.

The software allows you to view flows around vehicles and objects or heat transfers between any fluid and solid domains in detail.


Data gives one the confidence to clearly decide which concepts to follow. A solid data basis is especially important when mobility concepts are evaluated with regard to multiple factors at the same time. This is exactly what AVL CRUISE™ M stands for.

PEM Electrolyzer
Virtual PEM Electrolyzer Optimization with AVL FIRE™ M

The demand for sustainably generated energy is increasing rapidly, and electrolyzers are seen as a promising technology. Due to their efficiency and good dynamic performance, PEM electrolyzers are one of the most widely used technologies today.

Optimizing Your PEM Fuel Cell Cold Start Strategy

It is essential to choose the correct cold-start strategy to successfully start a PEM fuel cell system at sub-zero temperatures.In this free, 60-minute webinar, AVL's Dr Reinhard Tatschl and Dr Christoph Pötsch present a multi-physical system simulat

Overcoming Virtual PEM Fuel Cell System Development Challenges

PEM fuel cells offer one of the most promising technology paths towards emission-free mobility. 

Fuel Cell Virtual Prototyping - Achieving Optimal Performance and Lifetime

Performance optimization, increased lifetime and cost reduction are the main drivers behind current PEM fuel cell research and development activities. 

Virtual Fuel Cell Development – from Component Layout to System Integration

The automotive industry is undergoing the biggest transformation in its history. Electrified powertrain technologies are becoming indispensable as the automotive industry seeks to reduce emissions as much as possible.

Mastering Virtual Fuel Cell Vehicle Development – from Component to System Level

AVL offers tailored simulation solutions to support engineering tasks during the fuel cell development process to achieve a short time to market. 

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