Fuel Cells vs Fuel Tanks: The Similarities and Differences

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You probably have heard of a fuel tank, I mean your car has one! However, the close cousin of the fuel tank is the fuel cells. However what is the difference, and why would you want one over the other?

What what is the difference between a fuel cell and a fuel tank? Fuel cells are an off-road use-only aftermarket component that protects a driver from fire hazards by being considerably more puncture and spill-resistant than a fuel tank. Fuel tanks on the other hand are custom made per vehicle, making it possible to distribute weight and give more room for passengers.

What is a fuel tank on a car?

A fuel tank is a container that stores fuel in your normal car, truck, and SUV. The fuel can be gasoline, diesel fuel, ethanol, or any other type of fuel that can be used to power an engine.

The fuel tank that looks like this is usually made of metal and is located on the underside of the rear of the vehicle, however, it can be located anywhere throughout the vehicle depending on where the manufacturer wants it.

These tanks then supply this fuel via a fuel pump to the engine to allow the engine to be able to run.

Fuel tanks in general are custom-made for each vehicle that a manufacturer makes.

They can be plenty of odd shapes that allow the tank to wrap or mold around other components in the vehicle.

This not only allows for more fuel to be added to the vehicle but can also distribute the weight of the gas throughout the vehicle better.



What is a fuel cell?

Fuel cells are very similar to the fuel tank in the fact that it contains fuel that is distributed to the engine. However, that is about where the similarities end!

Fuel cells are an aftermarket component that you can buy somewhere like this, that is not legal for street use in most places, and are not custom fit to the vehicle.

Instead of a custom build these are generally a rectangular shape that is installed in the trunk of the vehicle.

While this may sound counterintuitive, the fuel cell is beefed up with thicker metal and has many other safety features to keep it from leaking fluid or being punctured.

This makes a fuel cell perfect for those that go racing on the weekends, or are professional drivers!

In these more dangerous conditions, especially in a rollover, you want to make sure that your fuel stays inside of its container, rather than flowing out and causing a fire.



Why would you want a fuel tank over a fuel cell?

A fuel cell sounds rather great, doesn’t it? More puncture-resistant, and better in cases of accidents. However, it isn’t always the best choice for transporting gasoline.

Outside of the fact that fuel cells are illegal on roads, they take up a ton of room, are expensive, and are just not practical for everyday usage.

Nowadays, fuel tanks have been built to be protected for normal use on roads today, and is not something you should worry too much about! This means for 99.9% of people, a fuel tank will be the best and most reliable choice for them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are fuel cells legal for streets?

One of the biggest downsides to a fuel cells is that they are not legal on most streets today! Fuel cells don’t have any regulations surrounding them, meaning they can be installed or mounted in any way, and this can be dangerous to other cars on the road in the case of an accident.

Do you need to vent a fuel cell?

Fuel tanks and fuel cells should all have the capability to vent. This releases extra pressure and fumes from the fuel tank that you would not want in the tank.

Should my gas tank be pressurized?

All fuel tanks should be pressurized to allow for proper functionality on moving gasoline throughout the vehicle. This is why your check engine light turns on if your gas cap is damaged, as it affects the pressurization of your gas tank.


Fuel tanks and fuel cells are both storage places for fuel, but the similarities pretty much end there. A fuel tank is a custom-fit part of your car that you will never even know is there, whereas a fuel cell is an aftermarket component that takes up space and is not legal for street use in most places.

Fuel cells are great for those that do a lot of racing, as they are more puncture-resistant and have other safety features. However, fuel tanks are better for everyday use because they are legal, easier to install, and don’t take up as much space inside the car.

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