In recent years, growing attention has been given to new alternative energy sources and exergy analysis since fossil fuels cause emissions that have some negative impacts on earth such as global warming, greenhouse effect etc. New power generation systems have been developed in order to reduce or eliminate these impacts as possible. So that, new alternative energy systems have been taken place instead of fossil fuel based systems with nearly zero emission levels. One of them is solid polymer electrolyte or proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell. Although it has significant advantages, there are some disadvantages such as cost, and hydrogen is not a fuel that can be easily obtained. For these reasons, efficiency of a PEM fuel cell has a great significance. Energy efficiency of a system is the most important parameter for utilization. But, energy analysis does not always show the capacity to do work potential of energy of a system. Exergy analysis must be investigated for a system in order to see available work of the system. Because of disadvantages of the PEM fuel cell, exergy analysis has quite importance. In this paper PEM fuel cell and exergy analysis of PEM fuel cell are combined and investigated. A detailed review of the past and recent research activities has been documented. The review focuses on exergy analysis of both PEM fuel cells and PEM based combined heat and power (CHP) systems at different operating parameters. It is concluded that there are a lot of parameters which effects the exergy efficiencies of systems. (C) 2018 Hydrogen Energy Publications LLC. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.