Ford posts sustainability gains in hybrid technology

RP news wires, Noria Corporation
Tags: energy management

Gasoline-electric hybrid technology continues to gain momentum and Ford Motor Company researchers are working hard to advance innovative hybrid solutions to address consumer interest. Ford unveiled a hydrogen-fueled, battery-powered plug-in Ford Edge at the 2007 Washington (D.C.) Auto Show in January.


Unveiling the hybrid Edge in Washington helped Ford showcase the vehicle and its technology in front of leading government officials and legislators, an important audience as Congress begins working under new leadership.


"Besides the public, the audience in Washington includes the people in charge of energy and clean air policy so this is very much a showplace for exhibiting what Ford technology can do in the future," said Scott Staley, Ford's chief engineer for Hybrid and Fuel Cell Technology Development.


Developed under contract from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Edge is powered by the HySeries Drive, a hybrid-electric propulsion system that uses the fuel-cell power unit as a charger for the 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack.


The vehicle operates in battery-only mode for the first 25 miles at speeds of up to 85 mph. When the battery is depleted to 40 percent of its charge, the fuel cell automatically kicks in to recharge the battery, giving the car a range of 225 miles. The technology gives the vehicle the equivalent of a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 41 mpg. The vehicle's battery pack can also be recharged overnight by plugging it into a standard electrical outlet.


Hybrid electric vehicles combine batteries and internal combustion engines (ICEs) in an arrangement that harnesses the strengths of each powertrain. In hybrids, batteries provide energy for launch and power surges as needed, while the ICE predominates once the vehicle exceeds approximately 30 mph.


Ford introduced the world's first SUV hybrid, the Escape Hybrid in 2004. Along with the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, the two hybrids remain the cleanest and most fuel-efficient small SUVs available anywhere.


Ford also plans to introduce several new hybrids in the coming years, including a Mazda Tribute Hybrid and hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan midsize sedans.


Other Sustainability Advances

As the auto industry and its consumers grow more and more concerned over the dependence on non-renewable resources, biofuels play a key role in the future. Ford researchers are working to find many innovative solutions with biofuels, including ethanol and biodiesel.


In the United States, Ford is working with a broad range of partners and stakeholders including ethanol producers, retail fuel providers and policymakers at state and federal levels to remedy this problem.


At the recent 2007 Washington Auto Show, Ford displayed the first Ford Escape Hybrid E85. It is a demonstration vehicle marrying two petroleum-saving technologies – hybrid electric power and flexible-fuel capability. Escape Hybrid E85 is the world’s first hybrid vehicle capable of operating on blends of fuel containing as much as 85 percent ethanol. Ford is producing 20 demonstration Escape Hybrid E85 vehicles for use in fleets in six different states.


Deliveries will begin this spring. Ford researchers are also working to allow for higher biodiesel content in future products. In addition, the company is conducting research with Michigan State University to open the doorway to extensive use of biodiesel as a fuel supplement.


U.S. Diesels
In the U.S., 2007 promises to be a milestone year for diesel vehicles. Cleaner diesel fuel was phased in nationwide in October 2006, enabling a new generation of diesel engines for 2007 and beyond.


Ford researchers are developing new concepts to address the challenges with diesel of preserving high torque and efficiency, while reducing noise, smoke and odors. Working together with Ford Diesel Powertrain Research and Advanced Engineering in Aachen, Germany, and Chemical Engineering at the RIC, the team is developing the engines, exhaust treatments, control systems and diagnostic technologies needed to provide future diesel products for the North American market.


In the field of nanotechnology, where dimensions are on a scale of 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, Ford scientists are focusing on ways to improve the performance of batteries in hybrid vehicles, increase hydrogen storage, continue to strengthen things like cast aluminum used in engine blocks and other automotive applications.


In the U.S., Ford is further exploring commercial applications of nanotechnology through alliances with Boeing, Northwestern University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other universities.

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