Ford explores hydrogen technology with Transit mule

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Ford Transit FCEV prototype explores hydrogen van potential.

Ford has teamed up with powertrain testing specialist AVL to build a fully functioning Transit fuel cell (FCEV) prototype, which it will use to research the suitability of hydrogen powertrains in the commercial vehicle sector.

Partly funded by the UK government’s Advanced Propulsion Centre, it is hoped the project will aim to improve knowledge, engineering and integration of the technology.

The powertrain uses a modularised fuel cell system approach, and replaces the battery of the electric Transit (upon which it is based) with a smaller unit. A proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell system has been installed, and the production BEV van’s electric motors remain.

Ford explained to Autocar the reasoning behind the project: “Compared to a conventional BEV product, the Transit FCEV research vehicle offers enhanced capabilities to enhance customer productivity including refilling time akin to conventional powertrains, whilst still delivering zero‐emissions.

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“This project is a step to deeper insights into the commercial viability of a fuel cell systems for possible wider deployment, and also gaining further understanding of customer usage challenges for route‐to‐market.”

AVL echoed Ford’s priorties, stating: “The tools and technical knowledge acquired during the project will be used for the next phases of fuel cell research and to inform partners about the commercial viability of potential products and services,” the firm said.

AVL says the project will also investigate the requirements to make a fuel cell electric commercial vehicle feasible, including the varying demands of different “customer use-cases.”

Other key areas the project will explore includes analysing the benefits of FCEV systems, including range, fast refilling and payload capacities, compared with BEV for high-payload usage in the light-duty commercial vehicle sector.

A new battery-electric Transit will go on sale in Europe in early 2022, with a 350km range and in up to 25 different sizes, weights and body variants.

Jack Warrick

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