Ford has signed a groundbreaking agreement to help mass-produce fuel cell electric technology, which should see mass-market fuel cell vehicles available from 2017.
Ford has entered into the partnership with Renault-Nissan and Daimler to accelerate the future commercialisation of the technology.
The three-way agreement confirms that there is a future to be had in the fuel cell market, with the trio looking to collaborate with each other to define global specifications and component standards for the technology.
The manufacturers are serious about the project – so much so that the initial years of the project will span three continents in a clear message to the industry as a whole regarding the development of a worldwide hydrogen infrastructure.
Each company has committed to investing equal amounts into the project, also contributing their collective fuel cell experience to create a common industry standard.
The benefits of a fuel cell-powered car are massive – the most obvious benefit being zero CO2 emissions when driving.
The engines will be powered by a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, and will only emit water when on-the-road. Most importantly, the future vehicles will complement the already-available battery powered and hybrid options on the market.
“Working together will significantly help speed this technology to market at a more affordable cost to our customers,” said Raj Nair, group vice president, Global Product Development, Ford Motor Company.
“We will all benefit from this relationship as the resulting solution will be better than any one company working alone.”
Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Member of the Board of Directors and Executive Vice President of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., supervising Research and Development says: “We look forward to a future where we can answer many customer needs by adding FCEVs on top of battery EVs within the zero-emission line up.
“Fuel cell electric vehicles are the obvious next step to complement today’s battery electric vehicles as our industry embraces more sustainable transportation.”
Daimler is also insistent that fuel cell vehicles will pay a ‘central role’ for zero-emission mobility for the future.
Fuel cell-operated vehicles are another step forward in trying to help wean the automotive industry from fossil fuels. The only by-products from a fuel cell are water vapour and heat.
Electricity for a fuel cell-powered car is generated on-board the car itself via the fuel stack. An electro-chemical reaction between hydrogen in the car reacts with oxygen to power the car – the hydrogen stored in a purpose-designed, high-pressure tank in the car.
The fuel cell philosophy has been something of a divisive topic for a number of industry commentators. Electric car advocate Robert Llewellyn commented last year, for instance, that he couldn’t see small hydrogen-powered family cars being on the market for another fifty years.
The trio aren’t the only manufacturers dedicated to trying to find a hydrogen solution. A number of others are testing the technology to try and create more fuel-efficient vehicles, which should ensure a healthy number of hydrogen options on the market by 2020.
But while the world waits for a fully-functional fuel cell-powered vehicle, a variety of manufacturers are already making use of the technology to progress their vehicles’ engine trains.
The technology has been featured as early as 2009 in the Nissan X-Trail FCV, the Fiat Panda HyTRAN and more.
However fuel cell vehicles do face some barriers despite today’s good news. The technology is expensive and there will be plenty of scrutiny over its safety once fuel cell cars first arrive on UK roads.
A more pressing matter will be the infrastructure around hydrogen technology. The UK has a single charging point at the moment at Honda’s Swindon factory and it would mean significant investment by either the manufacturers themselves or the government for an infrastructure to be put in place.
Take the electric car charging network as an example; even now many will argue it needs to be bigger despite significant investment and tens of thousands of charging points created over the past 12 months.
It all adds up to a future that could still be a few years off – but there’s no denying the potential of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
People that would like to find out more about Ford’s foray into the fuel cell market can contact Perrys Ford dealerships today.