To make the polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) commercially viable, further reduction in cost and improvement in performance are required. In this work, an innovative design of a PEMFC with multiple catalyst layers (CLs) is considered and the design variables, weight fraction of platinum on carbon (f pt), platinum loading (m pt), ionomer loading (f ionomer) and thickness of all the CLs, are optimized for cost reduction and performance enhancement. In the first optimization study, the cell performance is maximized. The maximum current density of an optimized PEMFC with four CLs shows a significant improvement over the base case design at all operating voltages. In another optimization study, the platinum loading of the PEMFC with multiple CLs is minimized. With an increase in the number of catalyst layers, the platinum required to achieve the base case design current density is reduced. Using four CLs, a reduction of 17% (at 0.15 A cm -2) to 60% (at 0.7 A cm -2) in platinum loading is achieved in comparison to the base case design. In addition, the maximum power density of the PEMFC with multiple CLs is found to be superior to that of an optimized PEMFC with a single CL at all voltages. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.