Ford is spearheading research into the potential for hydrogen as an on-board energy source for its E-Transit all-electric commercial vehicle.
The UK-based project is set to establish if hydrogen fuel cell technology can help to deliver enhanced zero-emission-driving range for E-Transit customers with energy-intensive use cases.
Part-funded by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), Ford’s consortium of six automotive technology leader and fleet operator partners will also help to determine the supporting hydrogen refuelling infrastructure required.
Ford Pro, the company’s commercial vehicle and services division, will use the pilot to expand its conversion expertise, supported by on-site engineers and E-Transit specialists from the company’s Dagenham site and Dunton Technical Centre, in Essex, UK.
Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity by combining hydrogen from an onboard tank and oxygen, with the only resulting emissions being water. The system essentially uses the hydrogen tank as a “gas battery” to improve range and deliver faster charging than the solid batteries and mains-connected chargers typically used by EVs.
This may benefit operators with heavy-duty use cases including long-distance transportation, maximum loads, ancillary equipment such as chillers, and those with limited charging opportunities in the working shift.
Ford has researched fuel cell technology since the 1990s, developing many prototypes, refining test fleet vehicles in partnership with customers, and in 2021 demonstrated an E-Transit fuel cell vehicle.
At a European level, Ford is still involved in a number of publicly-funded projects that are also exploring the use of hydrogen technologies, both for use with internal combustion engine-powered vehicles and fuel cells.
A test fleet of eight hydrogen fuel cell Ford E-Transits will run for six-month periods over the three-year project to 2025. The test fleet data will provide insights into the total cost of owning and operating a large van with enhanced zero-emission range and uptime that matches a diesel-powered equivalent.
The prototype Ford E-Transits will be fitted with a high-power fuel cell stack, in conjunction with significant hydrogen storage capability, optimised for safety, capacity, cost, and weight. An important project element will evaluate efficient and viable recycling for end-of-life components.