US:Ford to produce 'green' buses
Ford to produce 'green' buses
Automaker wants to be environmental leader; experts say hydrogen vehicles decades away.
Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
DEARBORN HEIGHTS -- Less than three weeks after abandoning its promise to build 250,000 hybrid vehicles for the North American market by 2010, Ford Motor Co. said Monday it will invest more than $1.8 billion to develop hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles in Britain.
Meanwhile, closer to home, the automaker said it has begun producing engines in Dearborn Heights to power a new line of hydrogen-fueled shuttle buses.
Ford's investment in Britain, which represents a doubling of the company's engineering spending on environmental programs in the United Kingdom, will fund unprecedented collaboration among Ford of Europe, Land Rover, Jaguar and Volvo -- a collaboration that is expected to yield more than 100 models and derivatives, Ford of Europe and Premier Automotive Group Chairman and CEO Lewis Booth said at a press conference in London.
Ford will use an array of technologies, from lightweight materials to bio-fuel engines. The automaker is also developing cleaner, more efficient gasoline and diesel engines, as well as diesel-electric hybrids to meet the needs of European drivers.
"A broad business strategy that serves all our brands is the only way we can achieve the level of improvement in emissions and fuel economy required," Booth said. "We are not going to introduce just one or two high-profile green cars that sell in relatively low numbers and leave it at that."
Spurred by Chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr., the automaker has tried to cast itself as an environmental leader, but the company has missed many of the marks it has set and remains a target for environmentalists.
"Mr. Ford is on our air waves right now fooling America by telling us that he is committed to breaking our dependence on oil while he breaks his promise to build more hybrids and his company produces one of the most oil-addicted fleets in America," said Jennifer Krill, Zero Emissions Campaign Director for the Rainforest Action Network in San Francisco.
Ford says its decision to begin producing hydrogen-powered shuttle buses demonstrates its commitment to more sustainable technologies.
Hydrogen internal combustion engines work like regular gas engines, but use hydrogen instead of gasoline.
Ford started researching the technology in 1997. BMW is also developing hydrogen internal combustion engines in Germany. Both companies have rolled out a number of demonstration vehicles and prototypes, but Ford is the first to bring the technology to market. Many see hydrogen, which can be distilled from water, as the ultimate renewable fuel source. Like other automakers, Ford believes hydrogen-powered fuel-cells represent the most promising replacement for gasoline engines and, like other automakers, has already produced fuel-cell prototypes.
But most experts believe the widespread transition to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is still decades away. Serious obstacles remain, not the least of which is the lack of a hydrogen infrastructure -- a network of refineries and fuel stations that would allow motorists to gas up their hydrogen-powered cars and trucks.
"We're using this as a bridge to fuel cells," said Vance Zanardelli, chief engineer of Ford's hydrogen internal combustion engine program. "You've got to get some vehicles on the road. That's really where the hydrogen internal combustion engine comes in."
Ford's hydrogen-powered buses use the same type of hydrogen as fuel-cell vehicles. The company hopes the commercial availability of hydrogen-powered vehicles will spur the construction of hydrogen fueling stations that will also be able to service tomorrow's fuel-cell vehicles.
It is a first step toward creating the hydrogen infrastructure, albeit a modest one. Ford will only produce 20 of the hand-built buses in this first production run, though the company says additional waves will follow. Just how many will depend on customer demand.
The first batch of buses will be delivered to customers by the end of the year. The first lessee is the state of Florida, which is taking eight of the hydrogen-powered E-450 shuttles to use at airports and convention centers.
The cost of the leases, which will run between two and three years, is $250,000. That is about $150,000 more than a similar gasoline-powered bus would cost, but Ford said it is selling the vehicles for cost.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....