The effect of a cooling plate on a PEM fuel cell was studied by three-dimensional CFD modeling. The cyclic cell and the single cell were compared for the evaluation of the influence of cooling plate. The cyclic cell consisted of a single cell and a two-channel serpentine flow-field coolant, which then repeats by using a cyclic boundary on both ends. The single cell was composed of an active area of 200 cm2 and a 10-channel serpentine flow field. The following sets of equations were used in the model: the conservation of electrical current, the mass conservation of gases species, the Navier–Stokes equation, the energy balance, and the water phase change model. Comparison of cyclic cell and single cell shows that the voltage of cyclic cell was reduced at high current densities because of the increased ohmic losses. This was caused by the combined effect of membrane dehydration and higher local temperature. However, the cyclic cell showed more uniform current density distribution than the single cell, and this is attributed to the use of cooling plate. Increasing the coolant flux enhanced the cell performance by reducing the ohmic loss. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.