Official Ford Announcement on New Fuel Cell Focus

New FCV Focus combines latest hybrid-electric vehicle technology and fuel cells.

Published: 21-Mar-2002

DEARBORN, Mich., March 20, 2002 – Ford Motor Company is combining the latest hybrid electric vehicle technology with an advanced new fuel cell to create an all-new, highly efficient, zero-emissions Ford Focus that will debut at this year's New York International Auto Show.

The new Ford Focus Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) is the company's most advanced environmental vehicle ever. It also is one of the industry's first "hybridized fuel cell vehicles" – which combines the improved range and performance of hybrid technology with the overall benefits of a fuel cell.

"This is the prototype of the groundbreaking fuel cell vehicle that we will begin building in 2004," says John Wallace, executive director of Ford's environmental TH!NK group. "This latest technology brings us one step closer to making fuel cell vehicles viable for consumers." While it is still a long road to commercialization, our long-term goal is to provide customers with the environmental benefits of a fuel cell without compromising on today's performance and functionality."

Today, the new Focus FCV is part of an experimental fleet, which will help prove out the technology as part of the California Fuel Cell Partnership. In all, five Focus FCV's will be produced this year for testing and demonstration – leading up to low-volume customer production by 2004.

The new Focus FCV has been "hybridized" with the addition of a 300-volt Sanyo battery pack and a brake-by-wire electrohydraulic series regenerative braking system. Both of these advanced technologies also are found on the Hybrid Escape, due out in 2003. In addition, the Focus FCV has a more advanced hydrogen storage tank, which can handle 5,000 pounds per square inch (psi) of hydrogen – verses 3,600 psi in the previous version.

Together, the new battery pack, regenerative braking and storage tank help increase the driving range of the four-passenger Focus FCV to between 160 and 200 miles – significantly improved from the previous version. The hybrid electric power system also gives the vehicle the "off-the-light" zippiness of a more conventional sedan and a top speed governed at 80 miles per hour.

In addition, the new Focus FCV offers advancements in several other key areas:

At the heart of the next-generation Focus FCV is the Ballard Mark 902 Fuel Cell System. A fuel cell is an energy conversion device that converts chemical energy into electrical energy using hydrogen and oxygen from air. Water and heat are the only by-products. The electric energy from the fuel cell is then used to drive an electric traction motor.

The Mark 900 series of fuel cell stacks from Ballard Power Systems has improved power density and were designed in a smaller package to be compatible with the overall system requirements of vehicles including the Ford Focus FCV. This latest generation Mark 902 stack has improved reliability and is designed for better manufacturability and service. The stack delivers 85 kilowatts of power, equivalent to 117 horsepower. In comparison, the base Ford Focus sedan has 110 horsepower.

Hybridized Focus FCV Improves Efficiency and Range

The hybridized Focus FCV's battery pack is made up of 180 individual "D"-sized batteries packaged between the rear seat and the hydrogen fuel tank. It is a "mild" hybrid, meaning the battery pack aids vehicle performance, but cannot drive the vehicle by itself. The battery is used during launch and assists the fuel cell system for improved drive-ability providing a smoother overall drive and when more throttle is applied, such as when passing another vehicle.

The regenerative braking system works to recapture energy in the form of electricity as the brakes are applied. This electric energy – which is normally lost in the form of heat generated by the brake pads in conventional systems – is directed back to the battery for future use. That additional energy helps give the vehicle its substantially increased range.

Brake-by-wire means there is no mechanical connection between the brake pedal and the brakes during normal operation. This allows the system to electronically optimize braking between regeneration and friction for maximum fuel economy and braking performance.

New Hydrogen Storage Tank Also Helps Increase Vehicle Range

The Focus FCV's more highly pressurized hydrogen gas tank also contributes to the vehicle's added range – up to 30 percent compared to the past Focus FCV. Tank technology used on board the Focus FCV is leveraged from breakthroughs made in Ford's natural gas vehicle programs. The new tank stores four kilograms of hydrogen, which is equivalent to four gallons of gasoline. It also features an in-tank pressure regulator, which lowers the pressure so the gas leaves the tank at approximately 150 psi to work its way through the fuel cell system.

"This is a very important area of advancement," says Bruce Kopf, director of Ford's TH!NK Technologies. "We believe hydrogen holds the clearest promise to be the fuel for future FCVs. Range has been a key issue, and this 5000 psi tank allows us to deliver a vehicle with a range our early fleet customers tell us they can accept."

Further range gains are achieved in the vehicle by utilizing lightweight materials, such as magnesium, aluminum, titanium and composites throughout the vehicle. For example, the wheels of the 2002 Focus Fuel Cell are made of forged aluminum. In all, this next generation vehicle is 400 pounds lighter that its predecessor. The car also is equipped with low rolling resistance tires for improved fuel efficiency.

Technology Advancements Lead to Package Improvements

"There are hundreds of technology advancements represented on this next-generation Focus Fuel Cell demonstration vehicle," says Kopf. "But we have also paid a great deal of attention to how the customer will perceive the car. The goal is to provide a Focus that delivers the same functionality and driving characteristics of the base model with the benefits of zero emissions technology."

Packaging the many components in the new Focus FCV provided a unique challenge. Some components are more compact than in previous vehicles, while other are larger. Adding hybrid capabilities also added new components, including the battery pack itself.

The challenge was met by placing the battery pack between the rear seat and the tank. The controls for converting the battery energy are housed in the armrest between the two seating positions in the rear seat.

The end result of the team's efforts is a comfortable interior for four passengers. Although the fuel tank is located in the rear of the vehicle, enough trunk space remains for several bags of groceries.

Safety to Match Conventional Vehicles

"One of the first questions we're asked concerns the safety of the vehicle, particularly the hydrogen systems," says Wallace. "As we place more vehicles on the road, we'll work to make people understand that a fuel cell engine will be as safe for our customers as their conventional internal combustion engines."

The new Focus FCV is designed to meet all federal safety standards, including crash requirements. It boasts the same outstanding occupant protection as the base Focus sedan. The Focus FCV has driver and passenger front air bags, traction control, ABS and an advanced tire pressure monitor system with sensors on each individual wheel. The car also is equipped with Ford's patented BeltMinder safety belt reminder system.

In addition, tremendous detail has been paid to carrying hydrogen on board. Sensors constantly monitor the fuel cell stack, trunk and the passenger compartment. If trace amounts of hydrogen are detected, the system will warn the driver. If a slightly higher level is detected, the system will transition to a limited operating strategy and then begin shutting down vehicle operations.

Ford also is working closely within the industry and with fuel providers to help develop federal codes and standards for hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Ford is an active member of both the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP), launched in 1999, and the newly formed FreedomCAR program. The goal of the CaFCP is to help improve the commercial viability of fuel cell technology by bringing all stakeholders together in an effort to eliminate barriers to mass production and implementation. The FreedomCAR program is designed to lead to technology breakthroughs involving fuel cells and hydrogen fueling.

"There are still many hurdles before us," explains Wallace. "But at Ford, we believe fuel cells are the only technology today with the potential to someday replace the internal combustion engine."

The new Focus FCV is Ford's third-generation drivable fuel cell vehicle. The first, the P2000 FCV, was introduced in 1998. The original experimental Focus FCV debuted in 2000.

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