This morning I had the opportunity to experience a fuel cell powered car first hand. As part of the opening of a new hydrogen filling station in Taylor, MI, Ford brought along half a dozen Focus fuel cell sedans. The vehicles were available for the attendees to drive and evaluate. As soon as the speeches and ribbon cutting were over, I jumped at the chance to hop in to one of the cars with a Ford engineer and try out the future of transportation.
My drive was only a short introductory exposure to the car. A more thorough evaluation will be coming soon. The only part of the driving experience that is significantly different from driving a standard Focus is the startup procedure. You insert the key and turn it to the first detent, and wait a few seconds. At this point a faint whirring sound comes from somewhere below as the pumps move the hydrogen into the fuel cell stack. Once the light goes out, you turn key to the start position and then release. The fuel cell is now running and producing electricity. The future of driving continues after the jump.
The only indication that the fuel cell is running is a faint hum from below the seat. Shift the lever into Drive or Reverse and then press down on the accelerator pedal and you're off. If feels just like driving a regular automatic Focus, except there's no sound from the engine (since there isn't one), and you never feel a shift since there's only one gear. A precise seat-of-the-pants performance evaluation shows acceleration that feels respectable for a car of this type.
The brakes are a completely fluid free electro-mechanical calipers from ContiTeves. The pedal feel is is good in basic driving, if a little grabby at first. The range on a full tank of hydrogen gas is between 175-225 miles depending on driving conditions. The Focus has a battery pack comprised of NiMH D cells that are used to run the pump for starting the fuel cell. I only got about 15 minutes at the wheel of the fuel cell Focus but if all goes as planned a more thorough review should be available in the very near future.
The fuel cells are mounted under the front seats of the Focus
The trunk is pretty much consumed by the 5000 psi gaseous hydrogen tank
$6 Million worth of Focuses