March 22, 2002


Fuel cell powered Focus to debut at New York auto show

Ford Focus FCV Schematic
Click image to enlarge

Dearborn, Michigan – Ford Motor Company is combining the latest hybrid electric vehicle technology with an advanced new fuel cell to create an highly efficient, zero-emissions Ford Focus that will debut at this year’s New York International Auto Show.

The new Ford Focus Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) is the company’s most advanced environmental vehicle. It also is one of the industry’s first “hybridized fuel cell vehicles” – which combines the improved range and performance of hybrid technology with the overall benefits of a fuel cell.

“This is the prototype of the groundbreaking fuel cell vehicle that we will begin building in 2004,” says John Wallace, executive director of Ford’s environmental TH!NK group. “This latest technology brings us one step closer to making fuel cell vehicles viable for consumers.” While it is still a long road to commercialization, our long-term goal is to provide customers with the environmental benefits of a fuel cell without compromising on today’s performance and functionality.”

Today, the new Focus FCV is part of an experimental fleet, which will help prove out the technology as part of the California Fuel Cell Partnership. In all, five Focus FCV’s will be produced this year for testing and demonstration – leading up to low-volume customer production by 2004.

The new Focus FCV has been “hybridized” with the addition of a 300-volt Sanyo battery pack and a brake-by-wire electrohydraulic series regenerative braking system. Both of these advanced technologies also are found on the Hybrid Escape, due out in 2003. In addition, the Focus FCV has a more advanced hydrogen storage tank, which can handle 5,000 pounds per square inch (psi) of hydrogen – verses 3,600 psi in the previous version.

Together, the new battery pack, regenerative braking and storage tank help increase the driving range of the four-passenger Focus FCV to between 160 and 200 miles – significantly improved from the previous version. The hybrid electric power system also gives the vehicle the “off-the-light” zippiness of a more conventional sedan and a top speed governed at 80 miles per hour.

In addition, the new Focus FCV offers advancements in several other key areas:

  • A new Ballard Mark 902 fuel cell stack;

  • An integrated powertrain, combining the traction inverter module and electric motor transaxle, and
  • Improved packaging for crash safety and customer comfort

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At the heart of the next-generation Focus FCV is the Canadian-made Ballard Mark 902 Fuel Cell System. A fuel cell is an energy conversion device that converts chemical energy into electrical energy using hydrogen and oxygen from air. Water and heat are the only by-products. The electric energy from the fuel cell is then used to drive an electric traction motor.

The Mark 900 series of fuel cell stacks from Ballard Power Systems has improved power density and were designed in a smaller package to be compatible with the overall system requirements of vehicles including the Ford Focus FCV. This latest generation Mark 902 stack has improved reliability and is designed for better manufacturability and service. The stack delivers 85 kilowatts of power, equivalent to 117 horsepower. In comparison, the base Ford Focus sedan has 110 horsepower.

The hybridized Focus FCV’s battery pack is made up of 180 individual “D”-sized batteries packaged between the rear seat and the hydrogen fuel tank. It is a “mild” hybrid, meaning the battery pack aids vehicle performance, but cannot drive the vehicle by itself. The battery is used during launch and assists the fuel cell system for improved drive-ability providing a smoother overall drive and when more throttle is applied, such as when passing another vehicle.

The regenerative braking system works to recapture energy in the form of electricity as the brakes are applied. This electric energy – which is normally lost in the form of heat generated by the brake pads in conventional systems – is directed back to the battery for future use. That additional energy helps give the vehicle its substantially increased range.

Brake-by-wire means there is no mechanical connection between the brake pedal and the brakes during normal operation. This allows the system to electronically optimize braking between regeneration and friction for maximum fuel economy and braking performance.

The Focus FCV’s more highly pressurized hydrogen gas tank also contributes to the vehicle’s added range – up to 30 percent compared to the past Focus FCV. Tank technology used on board the Focus FCV is leveraged from breakthroughs made in Ford’s natural gas vehicle programs. The new tank stores four kilograms of hydrogen, which is equivalent to four gallons of gasoline. It also features an in-tank pressure regulator, which lowers the pressure so the gas leaves the tank at approximately 150 psi to work its way through the fuel cell system.

“This is a very important area of advancement,” says Bruce Kopf, director of Ford’s TH!NK Technologies. “We believe hydrogen holds the clearest promise to be the fuel for future FCVs. Range has been a key issue, and this 5000 psi tank allows us to deliver a vehicle with a range our early fleet customers tell us they can accept.”

Further range gains are achieved in the vehicle by utilizing lightweight materials, such as magnesium, aluminum, titanium and composites throughout the vehicle. For example, the wheels of the 2002 Focus Fuel Cell are made of forged aluminum. In all, this next generation vehicle is 400 pounds lighter that its predecessor. The car also is equipped with low rolling resistance tires for improved fuel efficiency.

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