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Ford H2 F-350 Truck

The Detroit News reports that Ford is testing an F-350 truck fitted with a 6.8-liter V-10 internal combustion engine (ICE) burning hydrogen instead of gasoline. This is certainly the largest H2 engine Ford has worked with to date, and indicates that Ford’s engineers are really pushing the power output from hydrogen engines.

This is not a fuel cell vehicle; this truck uses an internal combustion engine which consumes hydrogen gas rather than gasoline or diesel fuel. Using Hydrogen ICE is also the approach BMW is taking with its current H2 efforts.

Ford views the hydrogen internal combustion engine as a transitional technology. The F-350 hydrogen engine’s economically feasible because it’s based on existing engine designs—only the fuel has been changed.

“You service it the same, change the oil every 5,000 miles,” said Bob Natkin, technical leader of Ford’s V-10 hydrogen engine program. The truck’s hydrogen fuel tanks are reinforced with carbon and can withstand a rifle round or a five-story fall, Natkin said.

“If you want to build a hydrogen infrastructure, the way to do it is to get on with building hydrogen fuel systems for cars,” said Ray Smith, program leader for energy technologies and security at California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “When the fuel cell guys get their economic act together, the transition will be relatively smooth.”

Ford plans to have a fleet of H2ICE F-350s on the road for testing within 12 months. Driving range for the trucks is still a too-short 100 miles. Doubling the capacity of the hydrogen storage tanks will help, but not enough.

Although the use of the fuel is more efficient than gasoline, engine performance is lower. Ford is using supercharging—forcing air into an engine—as a way to improve combustion and generate more power.

With the F-350, the result is a truck that is quieter than many diesels and puts out 225 horsepower and 300 ft.-lb. of torque. That’s well below the output of Ford’s gas-powered V-10, which makes 355 horsepower and 455 ft.-lb. of torque, but Natkin says the hydrogen-powered truck has room to grow. “We just have to turn the (power) up,” he said.

Ford has worked with smaller hydrogen ICE protptypes before—the most recent being the Model U concept car unveiled in 2003. Back in 2001, when Ford announced another H2ICE prototype, the P2000...

Ford said the hydrogen-fueled engine could be in cars by 2006 if fuel stations that extract hydrogen from water are constructed across the country. UPI

A little too optimistic on both the capabilities of the engines and the infrastructure. Nevertheless, it’s a good concept to pursue, especially as a catalyst for developing more sustainable methods for producing hydrogen, deploying a hydrogen fueling infrastructure and gaining more engineering experience with hydrogen storage.

However, from the point of view of the twin drivers of the need for alternative solutions for mobility—emissions and petroleum dependency—the H2ICE work desperately needs to be supplemented with extremely aggressive development and implementation of clean diesel and hybrid (gasoline and diesel) technologies. Those are areas which can deliver substantive, quantitative improvement over the next decade as the pieces of a longer-term future solution are designed and built.


Mark Cironi

Alternative Wind Power can generate the hydrogen necessary to get 100's of miles on a tank using hydrogen power. Creative approaches to provide 2kW of power every 12 hrs. of straight driving of a truck is achievable.

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