Ford Alternative Powertrains Star At The Bibendum Rallye

Headed by the motor industry's first hybridised fuel cell vehicle, the Ford Focus FCEV Hybrid, a total of five Ford alternative powertrain vehicles starred in Michelin's recent Environmental Car Rallye known as the Challenge Bibendum of 2002.

The Ford vehicles were powered by Ethanol (Ford Focus), Compressed Natural Gas (two Ford Focus cars and one Ford Transit) and pure hydrogen (the Ford Focus FCEV Hybrid). The purpose of the Bibendum Rallye is to provide a public stage for alternative powertrain vehicles in a format that aims to highlight the benefits of these environmentally friendly technologies.

All five Ford vehicles successfully completed the Bibendum Rallye's seven special tests covering the following disciplines: local emissions, noise, acceleration, braking, slalom, 'elk' test and overall efficiency. In addition there was over 700 kilometers of driving on public roads, from Heidelberg in Germany to Paris, for the 70 competitors in the event.

At the finish line in Paris all five Ford vehicles were awarded a prize for successfully completing the demanding combination of special tests and public road driving. Ford boasted the largest group of vehicles in the event and it should be noted that by finishing the 700 km course the Ford Focus FCEV Hybrid completed the longest distance for a fuel cell vehicle driving against other vehicles on public roads.

The Ford Focus FCEV Hybrid is the motor industry's first hybridised fuel cell vehicle, combining two zero-emission powertrain systems. It uses the latest technology Ballard fuel cell stack Mk 902 in combination with a 216-volt battery unit to provide significant improvements in fuel efficiency and driving performance.

The Ford Focus FCEV Hybrid will be produced in limited numbers over the next few years so that the vehicles can be used in specially set up customer appraisal fleets that will provide Ford with invaluable real-world experience of this technology. Fuel cell vehicles are not expected to be commercially viable before 2010 but Ford will continue to develop fuel cells as the most viable form of zero emissions vehicle technology.

In most driving modes the new 92 hp (68 kW) fuel cell stack provides the sole source of electrical energy for the Ford Focus FCEV powertrain. However, a new design of battery pack can supply an additional 24 hp (18 kW) of propulsion power whenever higher levels of power are needed. This 216-volt unit not only serves as the starter battery for the entire system, but also provides additional thrust during acceleration. In these situations, the Ford Focus FCEV’s energy management system supplies the extra power required from the battery unit.

The FCEV’s lightweight construction uses around 150 weight-optimised parts, which has led to a total weight reduction of 300 kg. One more feature helping to increase the overall fuel efficiency is the regenerative braking system. This technology feeds most of the energy generated during the braking process back into the battery system. During the latest test programs the Focus FCEV has demonstrated a 160-200 mile (250-320 km) operating range – a significant improvement on previous fuel cell vehicles. The top speed has for technical reasons been limited to 80mph (128 km/h).

Published 3 October 2002 Melanie Carter

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