January 24, 2007

Ford unveils world’s first drivable fuel-cell hybrid with plug-in capability

Ford Edge HySeries
Ford Edge HySeries. Click image to enlarge

Washington, D.C. – Ford has unveiled what it calls the world’s first drivable fuel cell hybrid electric plug-in, which combines an onboard hydrogen fuel cell generator with lithium-ion batteries. The Ford Edge fuel-cell hybrid is built on a flexible powertrain architecture, enabling Ford to use new fuel and propulsion technologies as they develop, without redesigning the vehicle.

The company says the vehicle, which uses the new HySeries Drive, delivers more than 5.7 L/100 km (49.5 mpg Imp) with zero emissions. If the car is driven less than 80 km per day, the average jumps to more than 2.9 L/100 km (97 mpg Imp).

“This vehicle offers Ford the ultimate in flexibility in researching advanced propulsion technology,” says Gerhard Schmidt, vice president of research and advanced engineering for Ford. “We could take the fuel cell power system out and replace it with a downsized diesel, gasoline engine or any other powertrain connected to a small electric generator to make electricity like the fuel cell does now.”

The new powertrain uses a real-world version of the powerplant envisioned in the Ford Airstream concept unveiled earlier this month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “We wanted to take what was in a ‘gee whiz’ vehicle like the Airstream and connect it with something people are driving on the road today, something that wasn’t just a futuristic concept vehicle,” Schmidt says.

The plug-in hybrid is powered by a 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack at all times. The vehicle drives the first 15 km each day on stored electricity alone, after which the fuel cell begins operating to keep the battery pack charged. This provides another 321 km, for a range of 336 km with zero emissions. The vehicle as equipped can travel at speeds of up to 137 km/h.

The system uses a hydrogen fuel cell supplied by Ballard Power Systems of Burnaby, B.C. The company says that, “clearly, many significant technical hurdles need to be overcome before a vehicle such as the Edge with HySeries Drive can become a reality. Fuel cell vehicles remain expensive, costing millions of dollars each. And the single biggest hurdle to plug-ins remains the cost of lithium-ion batteries. Much work also needs to be done to make fuel cells more durable and to create a hydrogen infrastructure.”

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