Ford First To Offer Clean-Burning Hydrogen Vehicles

Earlier this week, Ford Motor Co. became the first automaker to begin production of a commercially viable hydrogen engine, which emits little but clean water vapor into the air. The hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines are destined for shuttle buses and will be ready for delivery later this year, said Ford Motor Co. spokesman Nick Twork. The buses are scheduled for delivery to fleet customers later this year, first in Florida and then in other locations across North America, he added. Twork said Ford expects to build about 20 hydrogen-fueled vehicles in the first wave.

"We're the only manufacturer with hydrogen internal combustion engines that have actually been validated. We're the automaker working on both internal combustion and fuel cells," Twork said.

"This engine represents a significant milestone in Ford's research efforts in hydrogen technology," said Gerhard Schmidt, Ford vice president, who has long pushed for using hydrogen as fuel in conventional engines.

Other automakers, including General Motors and BMW, are developing hydrogen fuel-cell engines, so far an extraordinarily expensive way to produce electricity, used largely in space.

Because the hydrogen internal combustion engines use mostly conventional parts, they could eventually be produced at around the same cost as gasoline-powered engines, Twork told said. He said the main barrier to widespread adoption is creating an infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations. That is why the engines are meant for buses, with regular routes and central fueling systems, which make the cost of installing stations manageable, he explained.

Hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engines have many advantages including high efficiency, all-weather capability, and near-zero emissions of regulated pollutants and greenhouse gases.

They can also be mated with electric motors in hybrids for further gains in fuel efficiency, Twork said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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