Two of Ford’s ground-breaking Focus Hybrid Fuel Cell vehicles are visiting the UK from North America, as part of a global tour to demonstrate fuel-cell technology.

The vehicles are part of a small fleet of five 'Attribute Prototypes' (hand-built engineering vehicles) dedicated to public demonstrations for use prior to the introduction in 2004 of a small fleet of production Focus FCVs that will go into service with selected customers in Europe, Canada and the U.S.

"The move to a production test fleet will allow the company to gain valuable, real-world information. We need to learn about such things as serviceability, reliability and the logistics of hydrogen refuelling," said Phil Chizek, manager, marketing and sales, Ford Sustainable Mobility Technologies.

"These test fleet programs, some of which will run two to three years, should help provide that knowledge. This latest technology brings us one step closer to making fuel cell vehicles viable for consumers. While it is still a long road to commercialisation, our long-term goal is to provide customers with the environmental benefits of a fuel cell without compromising on today’s performance and functionality.”

The Focus FCV brings together the improved range and performance of hybrid technology with the overall benefits of a fuel cell.

Combined inside the UK's best selling car, the Ford Focus, the fuel cell emits nothing but water, bringing the goal of pollution free motoring a step closer.

The Hybrid Fuel Cell vehicle is the first time Ford has combined hybrid electric vehicle technology with fuel cell development. The result is a production prototype Focus FCV that is to be the first in a small fleet of fuel cell cars that will be used in several test programs with customers over the next few years.

During test programs the Focus FCV has demonstrated 180-200 miles of operating range – a significant improvement on previous fuel cell vehicles, which typically achieved a maximum range of 100 miles or less. The Focus FCV's performance levels compare with a more conventional saloon with a top speed limited to 80mph.

"These are our most advanced environmental vehicles ever and give a clear demonstration of future direction. There are still many hurdles before us, but we do believe fuel cells are the only technology with the potential some day to replace the internal combustion engine." says Chizek.

The Focus FCV combines one Ballard fuel cell stack Mk 902 and one 216-volt battery unit. In combination the system allows enormous improvements regarding the powertrains's fuel efficiency and drive performance.

In most driving modes the new 92 PS (68 kW) fuel cell stack provides the sole source of electrical energy for the Ford Focus FCV powertrain. However, a new design of battery pack can supply an additional 25 PS (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 FCV’s energy management system will step into a boost mode and supply the required power while the fuel cell system takes over after a short time of system acceleration.

The FCV’s light-weight 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.

Published : 19/09/03 Author : Melanie Carter

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