This study investigated a system and method to enhance robustness of fuel cell powertrain system by reducing cathode potential spikes during system start-up condition. Multiple dynamic hydrogen reference electrodes were installed in the fuel cell to observe changes of anode and cathode potentials during simulated system start-up and shut-down condition. Multiple reference electrodes made it possible to measure localized anode and cathode potentials in the cell active area. A 1.4 to 1.8 V cathode potential spike was observed during start-up condition due to a hydrogen/air boundary formed within the anode flowfield. Various system solutions have been studied to contain the cathode potential spike, such as purging with inert gas, inserting a shunt resistor, or inserting a conductive component between the anode and the cathode. In this study, a method of connecting an electrical load prior to feeding the hydrogen and air was tested. Applying an electrical load was proven to be effective to contain the cathode potential spike during start-up condition. The hypothesis is that the load current inhibits the hydrogen oxidation reaction at anode. The effectiveness of the potential spike containment is varied with the level of load current and stack/cell design. Optimization of load current will be necessary to implement the method into the system. An advantage of this method is that any additional component, such as a shunt resistor, won’t be required.