Friday, May 15, 2009

Fuel cells for transport vehicles: Ford experience

Ford Motor Company's experience with Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) technology (see reference) began over ten years ago with the P2000 concept. The Development of this vehicle demonstrated technological feasibility and revealed a number of challenges to automotive fuel cell commercialization. By 2005, Ford launched the Focus FCV fleet in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, Fuel Cells Canada (now Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Canada)and the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP). This fleet was tested to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and was placed in service for general on-road usage. Following the Focus FCV fleet, Ford introduced the Fuel Cell Explorer (2005), the Hydrogen 999 (2007) and the HySeries Edge (2007). With each of these new vehicles, more forward looking technologies were implemented for on-road demonstration and testing. Till date the Company's fuel cell power trains have logged over 1 million miles, accumulated over 30,000 h of operation, propelled an FCV in excess of 207 mph, and achieved significant milestones for cold start, cost reduction, and thermodynamic efficiency. Other achievements include the implementation of new automotive requirements and test procedures, as well as service and architectural standards unique to hydrogen/fuel cell powered vehicles.

The experience showed that recent predictions of major market penetration in the 2010–2035 time period are optimistic. According to Ford, materials availability considerations alone will prevent this. The unwarranted hype in the popular press, industry and academia led to the perception that widespread automotive application of fuel cell technology is possible in short term. The magnitude of the technological, economic and other challenges make this (popular) outlook unlikely.

Ref: Greg Frenette and Daniel Forthoffer, "Economic & commercial viability of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles from an automotive manufacturer perspective", International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Volume 34, Issue 9, May 2009, Pages 3578-3588

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