After a year of construction and ten years of research, the fuel-cell powered Ford Fusion 999 has scorched across the Salt Flats of Utah at the Bonneville Speed Week, clocking an incredible 207.297 miles per hour and giving Ford the mantle of the world's first automaker to set a land speed record for a production-based fuel cell powered car. Powered entirely by hydrogen fuel cells, the collaboration with Ballard, Roush and Ohio State University represents another significant step toward commercially viable hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
The Fusion Hydrogen 999 is one of two vehicles Ford's fuel cell research team is helping prepare to set world land speed records. The second vehicle, dubbed "Buckeye Bullet 2", is being developed in conjunction with Ohio State University student engineers. This streamliner-type fuel cell-powered racer aims to reach 300+ mph. Incidentally the first Buckeye Bullet set the unlimited land speed record for an electric vehicle by hitting 315 mph back in 2004. Its 770hp engine was used by Ford engineers as the basis for the 999 with Ballard Power Systems supplying the 400 kW hydrogen fuel cells.
Hydrogen fuel cells combine hydrogen, (the most common element in the universe) and oxygen to generate energy. Importantly, the only by-product of such a union is H2O, which makes it very attractive to those looking for a greener source of power. The Ford Fusion 999 project aims to showcase the potential of hydrogen fuel cells to be just as effective, and efficient, as traditional combustion engines. "Our goal is to make sure that whatever we're building within our research labs is a high-quality and efficient alternative fuel vehicle so that we can have fuel cell vehicles that the average person could be driving in the relatively near future", said Matt Zuehlk, lead engineer of the Fusion project.
But the Ford Fusion isn't just fighting the good fight on the environment front—it's fighting it with style. The Fusion was built to be a racing monster, with an aerodynamic body housing the powerful engine. "The 999 is much lower to the ground. There are no mirrors on the vehicle, and the traditional grille in the front that lets air into the radiator is not there because we don't have a radiator onboard," comments Zuehlk. "We have a different charter with this vehicle and that is to be fast, to be stable at high speeds and to have fun achieving a lofty goal for Ford Motor Company."
The hydrogen powered Fusion is part of Ford's alternate energy initiative, which includes a flexible array of options such as hybrids, E85 ethanol, clean diesels, bio-diesels, and advanced engine and transmission technologies. The company already has a fleet of 30 hydrogen powered Focus fuel cell vehicles on the road as part of a worldwide, seven-city program to conduct real world testing of fuel cell technology. The 30-car fleet has accumulated more than 540,000 miles since its inception in 2005. Hybrid models of the Ford Fusion will be available in 2008.