Wendover, UT — It's long been a maxim of the automotive industry that racing cars often use innovative technology that later becomes mainstream for the consumer. And this appears to be the case with the Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) and its high-powered fuel-cell electric vehicle that recently set a world speed record for fuel-cell-powered production-based vehicles.
|Fuel-cell-powered Ford Fusion setting speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats. |
The Ford Fusion Hydrogen 999 fuel cell car raced to 207.297 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah to set the record. The Ford "999" is the world's first and only production vehicle-based fuel cell race car. It was built in collaboration with Ballard Power Systems, Roush and Ohio State University, and is one of two vehicles demonstrating the potential of fuel cell technology at the Salt Flats. Ford researchers also are supporting student engineers from Ohio State University with its Buckeye Bullet 2, a streamliner-type fuel cell-powered racer attempting to reach 300+ mph. According to Gerhard Schmidt, vice president, Research & Advanced Engineering for Ford Motor Company, the historic run at Bonneville will further expand the company's technological horizons with fuel cell-powered vehicles, because the use of hydrogen as a fuel could someday play a key role in meeting the energy needs of the transportation sector. The Ford Fusion Hydrogen 999 is company's latest environmental innovation and is another step on the road toward commercially viable hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
The record speed was reached during a run at the Bonneville Nationals held Aug. 10-17. High-speed gas-powered racing cars have traditionally flexed their muscle on the Salt flats, with some exceeding 600 mph.
The vehicle was designed by Ford engineers and built by Roush in Allen Park, Michigan. Ford engineers leveraged the 2004 Buckeye Bullet's electric motor, a monster motor that cranks 770 hp, while Ballard Power Systems supplied the 400kW hydrogen fuel cells. Ford retiree Rick Byrnes, a veteran Bonneville racer, piloted the vehicle on its record-breaking run.
Ohio State students have designed their streamliner, dubbed Buckeye Bullet 2, from the ground up. Ballard donated the hydrogen fuel cells for Ohio State's car, Roush its engineering services, and Ford has provided overall project coordination and expertise in fuel cell drivetrains.
In 2004, Ohio State students set the unlimited land speed record for an electric vehicle by running 314 mph in the first Buckeye Bullet, dubbed BB1.
Ford 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 30-car fleet has accumulated nearly 580,000 miles since its inception in 2005. Ford also is conducting tests with the world's first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Ford Edge with HySeries Drive. The Ford Edge with HySeries Drive uses a series electric drivetrain with an onboard hydrogen fuel cell generator to give the vehicle a range of 225 miles with zero emissions.
Fuel Cell Buses
Farther north, Canadian fuel cell maker Ballard Power Systems Inc. (TSX: BLD; Nasdaq: BLDP), the company that built the fuel cells used in the Ford Fusion, will be building power plants for a fleet of up to 20 fuel cell buses that will roll onto British Columbia roads by the end of 2009. The delivery is divided into two phases: phase one is for delivery of one bus for evaluation in 2008; phase two is for delivery of up to 19 buses in 2009. The contract has a potential value of up to US$14.7M for Ballard. The buses are intended to be showcased in the Resort Municipality of Whistler during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and then be integrated into the BC Transit fleet. BC Transit is to purchase the buses, with assistance from the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada.
Ballard has been involved in fuel cell bus development and testing for 15 years, logging more than 115,000 hours and 1.8 million kilometers in revenue service during that time. The BC Transit fleet will utilize the company's most advanced, next-generation heavy-duty fuel cell module. This module, which has been specifically designed for mass transit applications, takes full advantage of the company's extensive R&D activities related to automotive fuel cell stack technology.
Ballard is part of a consortium working on the BC Transit fuel cell fleet, with ISE Corporation supplying advanced electric drive and battery technology, and New Flyer Industries Canada ULC integrating both the Ballard fuel cell module and the ISE electric drive into a transit bus platform.