Hopefully, these technologies will filter down to passenger cars as well.
The electric Ford E-Transit has been a great success in North America since its launch, and now the manufacturer will be using the van to test the viability of hydrogen fuel cell technology in a three-year trial. This underlines Ford's efforts to realize the full potential of hydrogen, something that others like Toyota are also trying to achieve.
Ford Pro, the Blue Oval's division focusing on commercial vehicles, will head up the pilot with the help of several experts. The project will involve a small fleet of prototype vans in the United Kingdom. In total, eight fuel-cell E-Transit vans will be in action for six-month periods until 2025, with Ford evaluating the cost of running them in comparison to diesel equivalents.
Of course, the combination of zero emissions and quicker refueling will also be analyzed for their impact on the commercial sector.
This latest project from Ford will help the company determine how hydrogen could benefit E-Transit customers who cover long distances with heavy loads and use ancillary equipment like chillers.
Often, these customers don't have the time to stop for a charging session, or fast chargers aren't as widely accessible as they need to be. These are some of the potential issues that could be solved by hydrogen. Hydrogen will require its own refueling infrastructure, and the trial also aims to identify these requirements.
"Ford believes that the primary application of fuel cells could be in its largest, heaviest [commercial vehicles] to ensure they are emission-free while satisfying the high daily energy requirements our customers demand," said Tim Slatter, chair of Ford in the UK.
The hydrogen E-Transit trial forms part of Ford's greater goal for its European operations to become the first region to be carbon neutral by 2035.
While this project focuses on the commercial sector, there is always the chance that learnings can be applied to passenger cars where keeping combustion alive is of great interest to enthusiasts.
Ford has already filed a patent for a combustion engine that runs on hydrogen, a design that could theoretically extend the life of charismatic V8s. Another more recent patent was filed by the Blue Oval for hydrogen fuel cell technology in a truck. This could be a great solution to building less polluting pickups in the future that still have the capability of gas models. Electric trucks like the F-150 Lightning are great but can't tow as much or nearly as far as their gas-powered siblings.
It'll be intriguing to see what Ford's findings are when its E-Transit hydrogen trial wraps up in 2025.
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