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Ford to combine fuel cell, plug-in

January 23, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Ford Motor Co. is joining the list of automakers working on a plug-in hybrid -- with a twist. It combines the convenience of plugging in your car with a zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell.

Ford today is to display what it calls the world's first drivable fuel-cell hybrid electric vehicle with plug-in capability. The Flexible Series Hybrid Edge represents the latest offering from automakers hoping to stake a claim to the next generation of alternative-fueled vehicles.

Gerhard Schmidt, Ford's vice president of research and advanced engineering, said the vehicle, based on the Ford Edge crossover platform, would give the company "the ultimate in flexibility in researching advanced propulsion technology."

"We could take the fuel-cell power system out and replace it with a downsized diesel, gasoline engine or any other powertrain connected to a small electric generator to make electricity like the fuel cell does now," Schmidt said.

Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford was showing the plug-in fuel cell at the Washington Auto Show, where government officials were viewing advanced vehicle technologies. The show opened for media previews on the eve of President Bush's State of the Union address, which is expected to include energy proposals of concern to the auto industry.

Several automakers have been working on similar technologies. General Motors Corp. will display the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in electric car recently unveiled, with a range of 40 miles on the battery and more than 600 miles with a gasoline engine.

Ford's plug-in hybrid Edge will operate in battery-only mode for the first 25 miles, moving at speeds of as much as 85 mph. When the battery is depleted to 40%, it will seamlessly shift to the fuel-cell mode, which will recharge the battery for 200 more miles of range.

The 336-volt lithium ion battery pack can be fully charged in about eight hours with a 110- or 220-volt outlet, and the engine will produce fuel economy of about 41 miles per gallon of gas.

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