The fuel cell is an electrochemical generator able to transform directly the chemical energy of a gaseous fuel (hydrogen, natural gas, coke gas or methanol...) with a combustive (oxygen for example) in electricity, heat, water and carbon dioxide. This article briefly describes at first the history of the fuel cell and after its working principle with the main reasons of its present development. Indeed, the fuel cell could be an alternative to the batteries for the electrically powered vehicles but also for other applications demanding autonomous electrical supply. The different types of fuel cells are described with their own performances. The proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) are more specially described. Examples of polymer membranes with their performances are given. The different programs in the EC and in the world are described as well as their applications in different domains such as the electrical powered car. (authors) 10 refs.