The Washington motor show played host to an important world first this week, and an interesting piece of one-upmanship from Ford. There, it unveiled the world’s first drivable car to be powered by a hybrid of mains-sourced electricity and fuel cell-drived hydrogen – the Ford HySeries Edge – whose arrival couldn't have been more perfectly-timed to steal thunder from GM's Chevrolet Volt.
Ford has installed the Edge, a compact SUV that goes on sale in the US later this year, with what it's calling a HySeries drivetrain. This features both a lithium-ion battery pack and fuel cell stack; that means you could recharge its batteries from the mains electricity supply with enough power for a 25-mile range. But rather than supplement this with a conventional combustion engine (as is the case in Chevrolet’s recently-revealed Volt) the HySeries hydrogen fuel cell stack comes into play when you want to go further than 25-miles.
The hydrogen fuel cell, supplied by Ballard, automatically turns on when the battery pack is depleted to 40 per cent capacity, generating electricity from the stored hydrogen gas, and recharging the car's batteries. The combined result is a top speed of 85mph, an average fuel consumption of 41mpg and a range of 225 miles, all with absolutely no emissions other than water. For those who drive less than 50 miles a day, Ford says the average consumption would be nearer 80 mpg.
So what about its production implications? While fuel cell vehicles remain prohibitively expensive for anything other than a long-term strategy, we could still see some of the other technology available by 2008. Gerhard Schmidt, Ford’s vice president of research and advanced engineering said, ‘we could take the fuel cell power system out and replace it with a down-sized diesel, gasoline engine or any other drivetrain connected to a small electric generator to make electricity like the fuel cell does now’. Doing so would turn the HySeries powertrain into a closer match for GM's E-Flex system.