Ford Launches Production of Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engines

Ford has kicked off production of dedicated hydrogen fueled V-10 engines, making it the first automaker in the world to do so.

"This engine represents a significant milestone in Ford's research efforts in hydrogen technology," said Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, vice president, Research & Advanced Engineering, Ford Motor Company. "We have learned a great deal about hydrogen powered internal combustion engines during the development phase of this engine."

The supercharged 6.8-liter V-10 engine will power Ford's E-450 hydrogen fueled shuttle buses. The buses are scheduled to be delivered to fleet customers later this year, first in Florida and then in other locations across North America. Hydrogen internal combustion engine technology represents an important step toward enabling hydrogen to become a viable motor fuel.

Hydrogen fueled internal combustion engines have many advantages including high efficiency, all-weather capability, and near-zero emissions of regulated pollutants and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2). They can also be easily hybridized for further gains in fuel efficiency.

While the hydrogen internal combustion engine shuttle buses will provide valuable real-world experience, Ford is also conducting research into next generation hydrogen internal combustion engines, including features such as direct injection to enhance power and fuel economy. "We have only scratched the surface in terms of what can be achieved with hydrogen internal combustion engine technology and are serious about maintaining our edge in this field," said Vance Zanardelli, chief engineer, Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engines, Ford Motor Company.

Ford's hydrogen internal combustion engine is much more than just a converted production engine. This 6.8-liter V-10 engine is specially prepared to burn hydrogen as a fuel but is based on the same modular engine series that powers many Ford products. Significant efforts were made to optimize this engine for hydrogen fuel to achieve maximum efficiency and robust durability in the customer's hands.

Prior to production, more than 7,000 hours of development and testing was performed on engine dynamometers to ensure optimum durability and performance when vehicles reach customers later this year. The engine development process replicated the same stringent durability standards applied to other Ford engines.

Specialized components in the engine include:

  • Valves and valve seats -- special hardened materials are used to compensate for hydrogen's reduced lubricating properties compared to gasoline or natural gas
  • Spark plugs -- Iridium tipped plugs allow for increased spark plug life
  • Ignition coils -- high energy coil-on-plug coils, to manage unique ignition characteristics
  • Fuel injectors and fuel rail -- Fuel injectors designed specifically for hydrogen and high volume fuel rails
  • Crank damper -- tuned for hydrogen fuel to ensure smooth operation
  • Pistons, connecting rods and piston rings -- high output designs to accommodate the higher combustion pressure of hydrogen combustion
  • Head gasket -- accommodates increased combustion chamber pressures
  • Intake manifold -- all-new to accommodate twin screw supercharger and water-to-air intercooler
  • Twin screw supercharger and water-to-air intercooler -- added to improve power output and maximize efficiency
  • Engine oil -- full-synthetic formulation developed in partnership with BP/Castrol optimized for hydrogen combustion properties
  • Hydrogen Part of a Broader Effort
  • Ford's strategy for alternative fuels is built around multiple technologies, including hydrogen internal combustion engines. This flexible approach allows the company to meet goals for customer needs, environmental impact and shareholder interests. The strategy does not focus on one catch-all solution, but offers a flexible array of options, including hybrids, clean diesels, bio-diesels, advanced engine and transmission technologies and E85 ethanol.

Ford's first hydrogen internal combustion engine demonstration vehicle, released in 2001, was based on a lightweight aluminum sedan body, which also was used in the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology. Subsequent projects included the Model U concept, first showcased at the 2003 North American International Auto Show, several Focus based demonstration vehicles, a V-6 powered tractor in use at Orlando (Fla.) International Airport as well as two hybridized transit buses. At the 2006 North American International Auto Show, Ford displayed the Super Chief Concept, which demonstrated Tri-Flex technology, which allows a vehicle to run on hydrogen, E-85 ethanol or gasoline.

Ford partner Mazda recently delivered its RX-8 Hydrogen RE to its first two corporate customers. These vehicles, equipped with a rotary engine, feature a dual-fuel system that allows the driver to select either hydrogen or gasoline with the flick of a switch.

Additionally, the company also 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 more than 240,000 miles since its inception.

Ford also offers gasoline-electric hybrids including the Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid. The company will also offer hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan in 2008.

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