Ford - FC5
Ford FC5 Concept: A vision for practical, fuel cell-powered family transport by 2004
The Ford FC5, Ford's concept for a near-future, fuel cell-powered car to provide comfortable, eco-friendly transport for a family of five, makes its Asian debut at the 33rd Tokyo Motor Show.
The Ford FC5 concept offers a realistic vision of what a five-door family car could be in about five years. With electric power from the latest generation fuel cell technology, the car will deliver exceptional fuel efficiency and ultra low emissions, while providing similar range, top speed and performance to today's gasoline models.
"Ford is a world leader in the application of fuel cell technology, and the FC5 is built around the most advanced fuel cell installation yet developed," says Neil Ressler, chief technical officer of Ford Motor Company. "By locating most of the fuel cell installation beneath the vehicle floor, our engineers have given the design team the freedom to create space for an uncompromised five-passenger vehicle. The Ford FC5 gives a first impression of how this could look."
Practical electric-driven vehicles based on fuel cell technology
Reckoned by many experts to be the most practical technology available for next generation family vehicles, fuel cells generate electricity by electrochemically combining oxygen from the atmosphere with hydrogen from a fuel source. The process is efficient, silent and without combustion. In the Ford FC5, the hydrogen would be extracted from methanol, which is readily available, easy to handle and produces very low emissions.
With methanol, the fuel cell system cuts emissions dramatically compared with a conventional gasoline vehicle. Moreover, there are virtually no particulates, carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxides, which are major contributors to urban smog.
Methanol is a highly practical source of hydrogen too. It is comparable in cost to gasoline and diesel, though Ford Motor Company's objective is to make fuel cell powertrains 50 per cent more efficient than either.
In addition, methanol is liquid under normal conditions, so refueling is just like filling up with gasoline. Adding methanol capacity to existing fuel stations is also straightforward, so the necessary infrastructure could be developed swiftly and economically.
Finally, while methanol can be derived from natural gas, it can also be produced from plant material such as seaweed, wood pulp and organic waste (known as biomass sources). These are renewable resources, which would help to preserve the earth's finite fossil fuel stocks.
Ford FC5 shows fuel cell vehicle operation
The Ford FC5 concept in Tokyo is designed to illustrate the operation of a fuel cell vehicle that uses a methanol reformer. The entire car bodyshell lifts to reveal the main elements of the innovative power system, starting with the fuel tank for storing the liquid methanol. From here the methanol passes into a 'reformer' which extracts the clean hydrogen required.
The hydrogen, as the gaseous fuel, and oxygen, supplied in the form of compressed air, flow separately into the latest generation compact fuel cell stack, manufactured by Ballard Power Systems of Vancouver, Canada. The stack comprises several hundred individual fuel cells, where the hydrogen and oxygen are combined, producing electricity, heat and water.
Each cell generates about one volt. The direct current from the fuel cells is then converted into alternating current, suitable for the Ford FC5's electric motor.
"We are convinced that fuel cells have tremendous potential as a vehicle power source for the 21st century, protecting the environment without compromising personal mobility," says Ressler.
"But there are still some significant hurdles to be overcome," he continues. "Current fuel cell systems are heavy and bulky, though they are already shrinking in size and the Ford FC5 represents another major step forward. Cost is the other major problem, but as economies of scale come into play, we're confident that the cost will come down to affordable levels - as we've seen with major consumer products from the Model T Ford to the personal computer."
The bodyshell of the Ford FC5 concept on display in Tokyo has been designed to maximize the customer package. Driver and passenger space are not compromised in order to accommodate the fuel cell system, and there is a large and usable boot, with easy access via the tailgate.
FC5 Concept's exterior lighting systems were developed in conjunction with Visteon Automotive Systems for minimal package intrusion and efficient operation. Headlamps incorporate high-intensity-discharge (HID) high beam bulbs, and a high-efficiency remote HID low beam system uses fiber optics to direct light to the lightweight lens in the lamp.
FC5's tail lamps are totally transparent when not illuminated. This is accomplished with high-efficiency LED blade manifold optics which require only minimal package space. The turn signals also use high-efficiency LEDs with special optical diffusers.
Driveable fuel-cell vehicle from Ford too
Though the Ford FC5 is a static concept vehicle, Ford already has a road-going fuel cell vehicle under intensive evaluation, with the Mondeo-based P2000 HFC.
Unlike the Ford FC5, P2000 HFC uses fuel in the form of pure gaseous hydrogen. The vehicle produces only electricity and pure water, and there is no requirement for the fuel reforming process. However, there are major barriers to developing a hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, so methanol-based vehicles like the Ford FC5 look much more viable in the immediate future. Ford Motor Company plans to begin low volume production of fuel cell vehicles by 2004.