21
Aug
07

Thanks to speed record, fuel-cell cars could multiply more quickly

Bloomberg News

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 After being clocked last week at a record 207.297 mph, this Ford Fusion Hydrogen 999 could help fuel-cell-powered vehicles reach the market more quickly.

After being clocked last week at a record 207.297 mph, this Ford Fusion Hydrogen 999 could help fuel-cell-powered vehicles reach the market more quickly.

Ford Motor Co. said a speed record set last week by the company’s prototype fuel-cell car could hasten use of the technology in its vehicles.

The car, powered by hydrogen and an electric motor, reached 207.297 mph Wednesday at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah, the automaker said.

High-speed performance is a step toward getting such power trains in cars and trucks available to consumers, said Mujeeb Ijaz, Ford’s manager of fuel-cell vehicle engineering.

“If power trains are going to be real, they will show up at Bonneville and will show up in racing,” he said. “Race cars have been where passenger-car power trains have been developed.”

Ford, the second-biggest U.S. automaker, and competitors are under pressure from governments to reduce emissions and gasoline consumption.

Fuel cells generate electricity in a chemical process that combines hydrogen and oxygen, with only water vapor as a byproduct under ideal conditions.

The car that Ford tested at Bonneville, the Fusion Hydrogen 999, was built to be more aerodynamic than previous fuel-cell prototypes, Ijaz said. A fuel-cell vehicle design for passenger cars is “still two or three years away,” he said.

Car designers, drivers and race enthusiasts gather annually for Speed Week at Bonneville, the 159-square-mile dried lake bed of compacted salt that is ideal for setting speed records.

“It’s a good day for fuel cells and electric drives,” said Steve Ellis, the manager of U.S. sales for Honda Motor Co.’s FCX fuel-cell car. “It proves electric drives don’t have to be golf carts.”

Ellis declined to say whether Honda would try to break Ford’s record. Honda leases more than a dozen fuel-cell cars in the United States to city fleets and two individual owners in California.

A new sports-car version of Honda’s FCX will be leased to U.S. customers in 2008 with a top speed that is electronically limited to 100 mph, Ellis said.

Honda and other automakers have said building fuel-cell vehicles costs about $1 million each. Companies such as Ford and Honda have engaged in projects aimed at reducing the expense.

Toyota Motor Corp., Asia’s largest automaker, said in September that it was less optimistic than competitors about the technology.

 

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