Ford races to cell-power record

Petrol heads who doubt the high-speed potential of fuel cell-powered cars may have to curb their cynicism following a record breaking world first from Ford.

Petrol heads who doubt the high-speed potential of hybrid or fuel cell-powered cars may have to curb their cynicism following a record breaking world first from Ford.

The Fusion Hydrogen 999 race car (below) recently set a new fuel cell-powered car land speed record of 207.279mph at the Bonneville Nationals in Wendover, Utah.

During the week of races, the 999 — driven by veteran Bonneville racer and former Ford employee Rick Byrnes — became the first production-based fuel cell-powered car to set the record.

‘What we’ve accomplished is nothing short of an industry first,’ said Gerhard Schmidt, Ford’s vice-president, Research & Advanced Engineering.

‘No other carmaker in the world has come close. We are excited to have accomplished something that has never been done before.

‘We established this project to advance fuel cell-powered vehicles and do what has never been done before; and we did it.’

The 999 was designed by Ford engineers and built by Roush in Allen Park, Michigan. Ballard Power systems and Ohio State University also collaborated on the project.

Ford researchers are also supporting student engineers from the university on its Buckeye Bullet 2, a dragster-like fuel cell-powered racer that will attempt to exceed speeds of 300mph.

The students set the unlimited electric vehicle land speed record — 314mph — in 2004 in Buckeye Bullet 1, whose electric motor was provided by Ford.

BB1’s motor was utilised for the 999, while Ballard Power Systems supplied the vehicle’s 400kW hydrogen fuel cells.

Ford says it has a fleet of 30 hydrogen-powered Focus fuel cell vehicles on the road as part of a worldwide, seven-city programme to conduct testing of fuel cell technology. The fleet has travelled nearly 580,000 miles since its inception in 2005.

Ford is also conducting tests with the world’s first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Ford Edge, with HySeries Drive.

This uses a series electric drivetrain with an onboard hydrogen fuel cell generator to provide the vehicle with a range of 225 miles with zero emissions.