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Ford Motor Company on January 23 unveiled the world’s first drivable fuel cell hybrid electric plug-in that combines an onboard hydrogen fuel cell generator with lithium-ion batteries to deliver more than 41 miles per gallon with zero emissions. The vehicle is built on a flexible powertrain architecture that will enable Ford to use new fuel and propulsion technologies as they develop without redesigning the vehicle.
“This vehicle offers Ford the ultimate in flexibility in researching advanced propulsion technology,” said Gerhard Schmidt, vice president of research and advanced engineering for Ford Motor Company. “We could take the fuel cell power system out and replace it with a down-sized diesel, gasoline engine or any other powertrain connected to a small electric generator to make electricity like the fuel cell does now.”
“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 said.
The plug-in hybrid is powered by a 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack at all times. The vehicle drives the first 25 miles each day on stored electricity alone, after which the fuel cell begins operating to keep the battery pack charged. This provides another 200 miles of range for a total of 225 miles with zero emissions. Individual experiences will vary widely and can stretch out the time between fill-ups to more than 400 miles: drivers with modest daily needs would need to refuel only rarely, drivers who travel less than 50 miles each day will see fuel economy well over 80 mpg, while those with long daily commutes will see somewhat lower numbers as the fuel cell must run a larger fraction of the time.
The Ford Edge with
When the battery pack is depleted to approximately 40 percent, the hydrogen fuel cell – supplied by Ford partner Ballard – automatically turns on and begins generating electricity to recharge the batteries. Like a conventional automobile, the Ford Edge with
This flexible powertrain architecture enables the use of new fuel and propulsion technologies as they develop and become available without the need to redesign the vehicle and its control systems.
Certainly, many significant technical hurdles need to be overcome before a vehicle such as the Edge with
Hydrogen Part of a Broader Effort At Ford
Research into hydrogen, including the Ford Edge with
Ford began working on hydrogen technology in the early 1990s. Ford’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, released in 2001, was based on a lightweight aluminum sedan body, which also was used in the development of the company’s first hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine.
The company currently has a fleet of 30 hydrogen-powered Focus fuel cell vehicles on the road as part of a worldwide, seven-city program to conduct real-world testing of fuel cell technology. The fleet has accumulated more than 300,000 miles since its inception. With this fleet on the road, a great deal of information that can be integrated into future fuel cell vehicle propulsion systems is being generated in different local environmental conditions.
Having the fleet outside the confines of Ford Motor Company also has allowed the team to gain valuable feedback on servicing vehicles in the field. As a hydrogen infrastructure is developed and implemented for the fleet at each location, lessons learned are being generated to ensure that the customer and hydrogen fueling interface is seamless and customer friendly.