VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Ford researchers now have practical proof of their partnership with Daimler-Benz and Ballard Power Systems.
Ford is taking delivery of its first hydrogen fuel-cell engine for testing in a planned zero-emission car. Daimler-Benz already has several such engines under test in Europe.
The engine prototype has passed several drive-cycle bench tests at Ballard's Canadian headquarters in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby.
Ford plans to integrate the engine into its P2000 lightweight car, and hopes to have a running prototype within a year, said Brad Bates, Ford manager for alternative power source technology.
'This is the first actual delivery of a fuel-cell system from Ballard to Ford,' Bates said after witnessing the tests. 'That's quite a milestone.'
The tests simulated drive cycles used to evaluate conventional internal-combustion engines, including extreme conditions, said Bates. The fuel-cell engine combines hydrogen and air to produce electricity without combustion.
Ballard licenses its technology to several automakers. Last year Ford joined Daimler-Benz AG of Germany as a full investment partner in the company.
Daimler-Benz has tested three Ballard-engine prototypes in Europe, including a version in its new A-class compact car that it hopes to market by around 2005. Ballard itself is developing fuel-cell buses, which are now being tested in Chicago and Vancouver.
The Ford engine was developed for the US government's Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles program. Canada last year agreed to kick in about $5 million to help fund Ballard's work on the P2000 project.
The partnership is a government collaboration with Ford, GM and Chrysler that aims to produce a high-mileage, practical family sedan weighing less than 910kg with the roominess and performance of a conventional passenger car.
The P2000 platform 'was shown last year with a special diesel engine that we built,' said Bates. 'The next step was to move on to putting a fuel-cell engine in it. We expect it to act just like your friendly family Taurus from the standpoint of acceleration and so forth.'
The Ford prototype will run on pure hydrogen, producing only water and heat as byproducts.
Fuel-cell engines are also being configured to run on hydrogen produced from methanol, gasoline and natural gas, allowing for more readily available fuel sources.