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Detroit News. Ford is looking for governments or private companies to test a fleet of its new H2ICE shuttle buses (earlier post). Bill Ford told attendees of Convergence 2004, an automotive electronics exhibition, that his company plans to build 100 hydrogen-powered shuttles by 2006, some of which will be deployed for use during January’s North American International Auto Show.

The development program revealed last month is entering the marketing phase. “We’re looking for customers,” Bill Ford said.

The announcement comes as the automaker continues to be a prime target of environmentalists because of its truck production. Critics have dismissed the automaker’s Escape Hybrid program as a token effort.

Bill Ford did not set a fuel economy target for his company, but said the auto industry must address global warming because gasoline engines contribute to the problem. About 54 percent of consumers call it a serious concern, up from 46 percent, he said.

And electronics, Bill Ford told Convergence attendees, will enable efficient, clean-burning hydrogen internal combustion engines—featured in Ford’s shuttle buses—to reach the market sooner.

If the first-year production run of 20,000 Escape hybrids is a token effort, what is 100 hydrogen shuttle buses?

There seems to be the beginnings of a shift on the part of more automakers to the position staked out earlier by BMW: use hydrogen ICE platforms in the short-term to catalyze the development of a hydrogen infrastructure and as a bridge technology to future hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Critical to that infrastructure are methods for producing hydrogen that carry a lower greenhouse gas impact than the current predominant technique of using natural gas as a feedstock. If one of the short-term goals is to reduce drastically the emission of greenhouse gases, accelerating the use of hydrogen produced from natural gas is not going to do it. The hydrogen combustion in the car is clean, but the hydrogen production from natural gas is not. From the emissions point of view, it would be better to focus on developing clean diesel hybrids running on biofuels.


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