GM Introduces E-Flex Electric Vehicle System; Chevrolet Volt the First Application
Toyota Touts the Maximum Tundra; Pledges E85 Version in 2009

Ford Announces Hydrogen-Electric Plug-in Hybrid Drive and Airstream Concept

The Ford Airstream Concept.

Ford has developed an electric-drive crossover concept car in conjunction with Airstream—the Ford Airstream Concept—that is powered by a hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain—the HySeries Drive.

The HySeries drive in the AirStream Concept combines a lithium-ion battery pack with a compact fuel cell system as a range extender—the fuel cell’s sole function is to recharge the lithium-ion battery pack as needed.

Overview of the HySeries Chassis.

(This series-hybrid electric drive design approach is similar to that taken by GM with its E-Flex family and the Chevrolet Volt. Earlier post.)

The new fuel cell, supplied by Ford partner Ballard, operates in a steady state, allowing a reduction in the size, weight, cost and complexity of a conventional fuel cell system by more than 50%. This approach also promises to more than double the lifetime of the fuel cell stack, according to Ford.

The Ford Airstream Concept can travel 25 miles in battery mode—depleting the battery’s state of charge to about 40%—before the fuel cell begins operating to recharge the vehicle’s 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack.

With the hydrogen-powered fuel cell, the range increases another 280 miles for a total of 305 miles.

The Ford Airstream Concept can travel at speeds of up to 85 mph. An on-board charger (110/220 VAC) can refresh the battery pack when a standard home outlet is available

The concept uses 4.5 kg of hydrogen stored in a 350-bar hydrogen tank. The HySeries Drive delivers the combined city/highway equivalent fuel economy of 41 miles per gallon.

This powertrain is already on the road and driving in a Ford Edge prototype. Ford scientists and engineers created this vehicle with partial funding from the United States Department of Energy. The vehicle will be shown for the first time at the Washington, DC, Auto Show on Jan. 23.



GM Volt sounds more practical and sustainable but I like the direction of the thought train.I think plug in partners,james woolsey,the governator and an ecclectic collection of groups have turned the U.S. auto industry in a positive direction.I signed the plug in petition asking U.S. automakers to produce plug in vehicles.
There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.Green and independent is taking hold.Saving the planet tomorrow is important to me but my attention is riveted to independence today so that my three children in uniform dont die defending energy security.For my reasons I have become an energy conservation zealot.You may have arrived at the same point for different reasons.I am hoping we use this rare common ground to advance our childrens future.Sign the petition,e-mail automakers and encourage plug ins.If we encourage an electric future we can work on greening the electric achievable goal I believe.

John Baldwin

To Ford, where does the hydrogen come from?

If from natural gas, whats the point? Why not just burn natural gas in the car engine?

Ford does not seem to be quite getting it, does it?


It is good to see that Ford is on the bandwagon to electric drive trains. It is growing proof that the US auto industry has seen the handwriting and it is renewable. The goals are to become self-supporting through sustainable energy policy. There are many paths to get us there - a serial fuel cell hybrid is one that Ford believes will fly. They do need to get better mileage for all the technology involved. H2 infrastructure will be expensive and competing against low cost all-electric.

What we hope for is independence from the need to fight over turf with resources. Of course to avoid simply moving the struggle to our own soil - we must lower consumption of fuels (CAFE!!), AND transition to sustainable resources.


The GM series hybrid Volt seems more practical for now. In the future, fuel cells with liquid fuel reformers could happen.


Hi John Baldwin,

One advantage of this approach is the absense of NOX emissions from a fuel cell.

Mridul Kashatria

Another benefit of hydrogen is that its future friendly. In the coming years companies are trying to generate hydrogen out of renewable power like Solar or wind.

Some scientists are even thinking to lay down a hydrogen grid just like electric grid, which will supply hydrogen to homes and keep the electric grid superconducting.
And many other things you can do with it.

Also, hydrogen has very high calorific value, meaning you can get very high amount of energy from the same quantity of hydrogen than conventional fuels.

And the cleanliness benefit.

Companies do a lot of research before making technology!

Not just ford but others are also going for fuel cells.

Bike Commuter Dude

John Baldwin:
You SHOULD ask, where WILL the hydrogen come from?

"If from natural gas, whats the point? Why not just burn natural gas in the car engine?"
Because that will not move us toward a more sustainable hydrogen economy, it will just shift our maladaptive fossil fuel usage onto natural gas, instead of other hydrocarbon fuels.

"Ford does not seem to be quite getting it, does it?"

The same could be said about you.


Likely ford doesnt have a genset handy right now to slap in place of the fuel cell for early applications.

Also note the two cars are not the same size.

Assuming ford can get its hands on a compact genset and find a safe place to put a 7 or so gallon fuel tank this concept car could be rather less concept more fact in just a few years.

Both companies are both working on conventionalas they call it mechanicalhybrids and these new direct eletric motor hybrids.

Have to assue its both a government project that sparked it AND the fact high power compact and cheap electric motors are showing up. These new motors are fully capable of replacing an engine and at the same time should also be replacing the transmission as well.

Adam Galas

Mridul, I must correct your mistake.

Hydrogen is not future friendly.

Generating onsite hydrogen from renewable energy sources makes no sense.

The energy required to electrolyse H2 from water, and compress it into a tank,(or cool it into liquid form) will always require more energy than can be regained through fuel cell.

It makes more energy to use renewable sources to charge super energy dense batteries.

As for the Airstream vs the Volt, the volt has the benefit of being able to run on cellulosic or algea based ethanol, or algea biodiesel.

The Airstream gets worse mileage equivalent, has a lower range, and will probably cost more due to the fuel cell stack.

I think GM has designed the better concept car. Now the question is: will they build it and when?


OMFG Lame!!!


Another nice concept car. Will it see production?

Is it possible that they are using the hydrogen/fuelcell the way it should be used, as a long term storage battery that can be recharged?


Why GM calls this car a concept? What is so earthshattering did they put into it? Locomotives use this type of hybrid systems and don't call themselfes concept.
I hope all oilmen (half of reps congress) will be put to jail for making USA so much dependant on their energy. Everywhere its called monopoly, its just through institution of stock holding its really hard to track those who has conflict of interest by holding those shares. Bottom line is this kind of CONCEPT (lol) could be on roads for a few years by now and called plugin hybrid. Why Bush sends young boys to fight for energy when solution is on the surface is beyond me.

Ron Fischer

Ford's Airstream concept suffers needing to engineer around a large onboard gaseous hydrogen storage tank. Being a serial hybrid however, did give Ballard a much freer hand in making a practical fuel cell range extender.

If Ford was determined to use a fuel cell, a high temperature, self-reforming ceramic unit running methanol, DME or sulphur-free diesel would have made this a nearer term possibility, not to mention something they could sell to the Army. Of course, as has been pointed out here, you could run a compact diesel genset on those fuels at fractionally less efficiency and orders of magnitude less cost as well.


Whether SOFC or PEM, a fuel cell as an extender like the genset in the GM Volt is a good idea. The Chrysler NECAR had a PEM and reformed methanol on board. Reforming ethanol, gasoline or diesel is not all that difficult. The compressed hydrogen is a logistical Catch-22.


Hi John Baldwin
WTW (well to wheel efficiency) of CNG car on Mix European Driving cycle is around 15 % (the result of 88 % upstrem eff. multiplied 17% car eff. ) while the WTW of a CH2FCV (compressed H2 fuel cell vehicle) is 34% overall (the result of 63 % steam reforming and compression multiplied 55 % car eff, )!!!That means that starting with the same amount of Natural Gas (at the well) , the FC car will run for a double range!
Hi Winterman.
Unfortunately such a battery not exists, otherwise already now will have EV.
And how long is the recharging time? Keep in mind that the faster, the lower the eff.
And what happ if you want to drive from Milan to Rome in a day?


It is good to see Ford and GM thinking about building something besides huge gas guzzeling SUV's. The only question I have is what have they got in the showroom today.

Nothing but big old gas hogs.

When these guys build a car that is better quality and higher mileage than my Prius, I will buy it.

For now I am not going to hold my breath waiting.


This shows how Ford, instead of showing their new fuel hogs, had to rush something to the auto show that they could "WoW" display now. It must be obvious to the more casual observer that this is far future, if even ever, and not near future. What is their true near future concept? Me thinks it will be an on-board small flex-fuel ICE genset in place of the H2 tank; just like GM.


When talking about h2 you have to use current generation eff numbers not the old ones. The newer h2 generatords are ALOT better then the old models. They makemore h2 and do it cheaper.

The result as has been popping up in stories here and there is that h2 stations in japan now LOWER peoples monthly bills by a large fraction.

In many parts of the world there is some form of fuel tha an h2 station could use to make h2 thats cheaper then conventional methods. As the tech progresses more of the world falls into that range.

Roger Pham

That's right, Wintermane. I agree with you 100%

Ron Fischer

H2: great when made from the right source stock. I'd run my chemical rocket on it any day ;-) Gaseous storage: bleah.

Also, externally reforming liquid fuels above the complexity of an alcohol into triple 9 purity H2 is complex and expensive (especially onboard). GM & the refiners got to the point with their onboard reforming experiments where they were talking about ultra-refined "gasoline-like" fuels. These would be designed for clean partial oxidation reduction into syngas (mainly CO and H). But then there would still be carbon monoxide to scrub away, the bane of platinum-based anodes and cathodes...

SOFC is simple by comparison, but suffers from heat-cycling related failures. The literature discusses matching thermal expansion profiles of all layers in the designs (old tubular would seem particularly bad in this regard).

I'm still curious why DMFC isn't considered? Perhaps freezing problems with a hygroscopic fuel like methanol?


"Companies do a lot of research before making technology! Not just ford but others are also going for fuel cells."

I don't think that we can call Ford (or "others") the smartest companies around. Just because a whole bunch of people do something, doesn't mean they've planned for it. Companies CAN be stupid, and it's shown over the past decade (and will continue to show) as Toyota surpasses GM and Ford to become the largest car company on the planet.

So much for research..

Al Mayberry

John Baldwin -- You do ask the obvious question -- where does the hydrogen come from. I will comment on your 'answer' -- burning natural gas generates less CO2 than burning gas but only 3o% less. It still makes a very substantial contribution to greenhouse gasses compared to a fuel cell. It's the burning of the fuel that is dirty.

Fossil Fuel Emission Levels
- Pounds per Billion Btu of Energy Input
Carbon Dioxide Pollutant
Natural Gas--117,000

Source: EIA - Natural Gas Issues and Trends 1998


This is without a doubt the biggest excersice in futility I have seen lately. 25 miles electric (golf cart range) and 280 miles hydrogen (where is the hydrogen coming from?). Hydrogen is NOT an energy source, it is simply the most energy dense energy carrier (by mass, not by volume!). It takes a massive amount of energy to obtain hydrogen (unless you get it from fossil fuel which defeat the purpose). The entire planet needs sources of CLEAN energy not Hydrogen. With an electric dominant hybrid with 100 to 150 mile range, our society can drive over 80% of all miles travelled in electrical mode while the other 20% can be taken care by biofuels and fosil fuels as a last resort. This is simply a publicity stunt on the part of Ford


Do fuel cells work efficiently enough in reverse? If not, what would it take to make a fuel cell that does?

What I'm getting at is why would you put hydrogen into your vehicle if there was a pluggin method that could transform mains power and water(or equivalent liquid) over a catalist back to hydrogen for storage in your car? Like a closed system similar to a lead acid battery.
Or is the process possible but not efficient enough or what am I missing? I know heat would be generated, but surely that can be overcome.

Mark A

Now Ford is on the right track. This is just the sort of powertrain I have been dreaming about, if the hydrogen generation can be economically produced and stored. Now if they only intoduced a Cobra shaped small two seat no frills commuter type of car, for under 15K, with this powertrain, my dreams will have come true. How about a governor or limitor to limit top speed to increase range? Congrats also to the US Dept of Energy

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