Ford’s Shuttle Bus Bring Hydrogen Powered Vehicles a Step Closer

Vehicles that were once thought to be a vision into the future are now closer to reality. Ford recently unveiled an advanced new hydrogen-powered Ford H2ICE E-450 shuttle bus that demonstrates the commercial viability of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

A Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (H2ICE) is a traditional internal combustion engine that is modified to run on hydrogen, rather than gasoline. Compared with today's gasoline engines, H2ICE delivers up to a 99.7 percent reduction in CO2 and includes many of the benefits of a hydrogen fuel cell, but at a fraction of the cost.

The Ford H2ICE E-450 is a Ford E-450 chassis cab, with a shuttle bus body and a 6.8-liter Triton™ V-10 engine fueled with hydrogen. Ford will put two of the H2ICE E-450s into service as shuttle buses at the 2005 North American International Auto Show to demonstrate their capability.

"The hydrogen-fueled shuttle bus is a product we could market to customers who need to move people in an efficient, environmentally friendly way," said Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, Ford Motor Company vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering. "We think this is an interesting solution for airport transportation, for example."

The H2ICE E-450 seats up to 12 passengers and their luggage, including the driver. The vehicle is equipped with a 26-gallon equivalent, 5,000 pound per square inch hydrogen fuel tank. The engine is a modified 6.8-liter Triton V-10. The range is expected to be up to 150-miles depending on conditions and vehicle load.

Ford's Involvement in the Development of Alternative Fuels

Ford is active in the development of alternatives to traditional gasoline-powered internal combustion engines. For years, Ford and the industry focused on battery-electric vehicles as the answer. But as years passed, battery technology never progressed or showed hope of progressing to reach a level near the efficiency of gasoline power. The industry has shifted its eyes and efforts toward gasoline-powered hybrid-electric, "clean diesel," direct injection gasoline and diesel, and eventually, hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Ford developed the Escape Hybrid, a gasoline full hybrid-electric vehicle that is on sale now. Ford is also very active in fuel cell technology and is now producing a demonstration fleet of 30 Focus Fuel Cell Vehicles in collaboration with its alliance with Ballard Power Systems. These vehicles will be placed in Sacramento, Orlando, Southeast Michigan, Vancouver, and Germany. In Europe, Ford is also active in clean-diesel and direct injection technologies.

Hydrogen fuel cells are now almost universally recognized as the eventual heir to the internal combustion engine. Yet, even with tremendous progress in recent years, additional work is required to satisfy customer expectations in terms of durability and affordability.

As the development of the fuel cell continues to mature, the industry, governments, energy companies, and interested non-governmental organizations ponder how customers will fuel hydrogen vehicles of the future. Today's highway is lined with gasoline stations not equipped for hydrogen needs.

"We believe that H2ICE vehicles will play a key role in justifying infrastructure development and accelerating a transition to a hydrogen economy," said Schmidt.

Ford is working with BP to build a network of hydrogen fueling stations in demonstration fleet markets to support the fuel cell vehicles. Some BP hydrogen refueling stations will evaluate technologies that have near-term commercial feasibility, such as reformation of natural gas, while others will explore more long-term technology options and assess the potential to produce renewable-based hydrogen that achieve U.S. DOE hydrogen fuel cost targets.

While the development of fuel cells continues, Ford believes H2ICE is a technology that will make hydrogen-power more practical. Ford also is utilizing H2ICEs to developing stationary backup or supplemental power systems and off-street applications such as airport ground support vehicles. Making H2ICE accessible sooner will help spur growth in the development of a hydrogen infrastructure paving the way for fuel cells in the future.

For more information on hydrogen, click here.

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