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More H2 Seeds

Ford and BP Seeding the H2 Economy

Ford will place up to 30 hydrogen-powered vehicles and BP will build a network of fueling stations to support them in metropolitan Sacramento, Orlando and Detroit.

The Ford and BP joint proposal calls for Ford to provide up to 30 hydrogen-powered Ford Focus Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV). Assembly of the vehicles will begin in the fourth quarter of 2004, depending on the timing of successful contract negotiations with the U.S. DOE and various state and local entities.

The Ford Focus FCV uses an 85kW fuel cell stack supplied by Ballard Power Systems, a world leader in proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology. The FCV is hybridized with the addition of a nickel metal-hydride battery pack and a brake-by-wire electro-hydraulic series regenerative braking system.

BP plans to install a network of stations demonstrating state-of-the art fueling technologies to support the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Some BP hydrogen refueling stations will evaluate technologies that have near-term commercial feasibility, such as reformation of natural gas, while others will explore more long-term technology options and assess the potential to produce renewable-based hydrogen that achieve U.S. DOE hydrogen fuel cost targets.

Excellent. The market cannot become so infatuated with hybrids in the short term that we ease off the pressure for a long-term solution for sustainable mobility and energy.

Ford also seems to be getting more aggressive with pushing its alternative fuel work — perhaps a recognition of the gains Toyota has made in terms of market perception. Bill Ford has talked the alternative fuel talk for years, and walked it with the funding that Ford has put into the different research areas. But being aggressive with product in the market — that’s a significant step forward.

Separately, along that line, Ford is having a spat with Toyota over the spin of the licensing agreement for hybrid technology in the upcoming Ford Escape hybrid SUV.

...Ford has been bristling ever since stories came out insinuating it needed Toyota’s help to produce its Escape Hybrid, bowing later this year.

“Toyota is trying to take some undue credit for our product,” Phil Martens, group vice president-product creation, tells employees in an internal memo.

There’s plenty of room — and desire — for each car maker to go its own way if the hybrid market takes off. To that end, Ford has stepped up its engineering commitment, designating a team of 200 to work on hybrids under Wright. It has plans for a hybrid Mercury Mariner cross/utility by 2006 and will follow that up with a hybrid Ford-badged sedan. It already is hinting those second-generation technologies will be much more advanced — and borrow nothing from Toyota.

All that just may make for a tighter hybrid-vehicle technology race. Toyota “wanted to own environmental vehicle leadership,” Martens says in his memo. “They underestimated us.”

This could get pretty interesting.


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