Hydrogen Fuel Cell Fusion Attempts Land Speed Record
The Ford Fusion Hydrogen 999, which is powered completely by hydrogen fuel cells, is the product of a year-long collaborative effort between Ford's fuel cell team, Roush Racing, Ballard Power Systems and Ohio State University. Ford's goal is to become the world's first Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) fuel cell car to travel 200 mph. The vehicle will race during Bonneville Speed Week in August at the renowned Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Ford Motor Company unveiled a car built to set the world land speed record for a production-based hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle Tuesday at the Dearborn Development Center during an all-day media program designed to showcase Ford vehicles and technologies of the future.
"It may sound cliché, but we're chasing a dream," said Matt Zuehlk, member of the Ford fuel cell team and lead engineer for the Fusion Hydrogen 999. "We see an opportunity to make history for Ford Motor Company, and it's extremely exciting."
Zuehlk says that if the vehicle achieves its goal at Bonneville, it won't be the first time that a Ford "999" sets a land speed record.
"In 1904, Henry Ford set a land speed record at 91.37 mph on a frozen-over Lake St. Clair with a car named '999,'" he explained. "Mr. Ford had a dream of being fast and innovative. We're back at land speed racing 100 years later, and now we're showcasing Ford's innovation in fuel cell technology."
The exterior of the Fusion Hydrogen 999 looks like a standard Fusion with a few key differences, according to Zuehlk.
"We have made some modifications to the body to make it more aerodynamic. The 999 is much lower to the ground. There are no mirrors on the vehicle, and the traditional grille in the front that lets air into the radiator is not there because we don't have a radiator onboard," he said. "We have a different charter with this vehicle and that is to be fast, to be stable at high speeds and to have fun achieving a lofty goal for Ford Motor Company."
Media gathered at Tuesday's event also had an opportunity to drive concept vehicles from this year's auto shows -- the Ford Airstream, the Ford Interceptor and the Lincoln MKR. Some of the company's alternative fuel vehicles were also on site for reporters to test drive, including the Ford E-450 bus, which uses hydrogen fuel to power its supercharged 6.8-liter V-10 engines, the Ford Focus Fuel Cell and the Ford Edge with HySeries Drive, which is the world's first plug-in hybrid electric fuel cell vehicle.
"The Ford Edge with HySeries Drive is a demonstration of what could hit the market and actually be viable for our customers," said Zuehlk. "We still have a fuel cell onboard the vehicle, but its main power source is a lithium ion battery pack, so you can drive up to 20 to 25 miles on a battery only and then when that battery is depleted to a certain level, the fuel cell automatically turns on creating electricity to charge that battery pack again."
Bryce Hoffman, an auto writer for The Detroit News, test drove the HySeries Edge.
"I was surprised by how peppy it was," he said. "The acceleration and the power are very impressive."
"The normal harshness of a combustion engine is gone," added Evan McCausland, a writer for AutoWeek, comparing the HySeries Edge to the standard version. "It feels more refined."
Zuehlk says that it may be possible for Ford to have a limited production fleet of fuel cell vehicles on the road in 10 to 15 years.
"It's a two-fold path that needs to be walked and walked efficiently," he said. "We have to make the vehicles themselves commercially viable and less expensive, but it's also the infrastructure. Until you can go to the local fuel station and get hydrogen to fuel these vehicles, it's going to be hard to convince consumers to buy them."
To that end, Zuehlk says he and his team are working in tandem with the U.S. Department of Energy, which is funding Ford's technology demonstration vehicles like the Edge with HySeries Drive.
"We want to help them understand that we're building vehicles that should fill a path to commercialization by demonstrating a 'no compromises' vehicle for customers," he explained. "The other piece of the puzzle is that the hydrogen infrastructure would be set in place to support these vehicles."
Zuehlk and others involved with Tuesday's media event hope to show that Ford Motor Company is not resting on its laurels in the development of alternative fuel vehicles.
"We are definitely not lagging behind the competition as far as demonstrating innovative alternative fuel vehicles is concerned," he said. "Our goal is to make sure that whatever we're building within our research labs is a high-quality and efficient alternative fuel vehicle so that we can have fuel cell vehicles that the average person could be driving in the relatively near future."