This paper describes how primary contaminants in ambient air affect the performance of the cathode in fuel cell electric vehicle applications. The effect of four atmospheric pollutants (SO2, NH3, NO2, and CO) on cathode performance was investigated by air impurity injection and recovery test under load. Electrochemical analysis via polarization and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy was performed for various concentrations of contaminants during the impurity test in order to determine the origins of performance decay. The variation in cell voltage derived empirically in this study and data reported in the literature were normalized and juxtaposed to elucidate the relationship between impurity concentration and performance. Mechanisms of cathode degradation by air impurities were discussed in light of the findings.
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