Ford has combined the latest hybrid electric vehicle technology with an advanced new fuel cell to create a new, highly efficient, zero-emissions Focus.

The latest Focus Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) is said to be the company’s most advanced environmental vehicle and one of the industry’s first “hybridised fuel cell vehicles” – which combines the improved range and performance of hybrid technology with the overall benefits of a fuel cell.

“This is the prototype of the groundbreaking fuel cell vehicle that we will begin building in 2004,” says the executive director of Ford’s environmental TH!NK group, John Wallace.

“This latest technology brings us one step closer to making fuel cell vehicles viable for consumers.” While it is still a long road to ‘commercialisation’, our long-term goal is to provide customers with the environmental benefits of a fuel cell without compromising on today’s performance and functionality.”

The latest FCV is part of an experimental fleet, which will help prove out the technology as part of the California Fuel Cell Partnership. In all, five Focus FCVs will be produced this year for testing and demonstration – leading up to low-volume customer production by 2004.

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The latest Focus FCV has been “hybridised” with the addition of a 300-volt Sanyo battery pack and a brake-by-wire electro-hydraulic series regenerative braking system. Both of these advanced technologies also are found on the Hybrid Escape, due out in 2003. In addition, the new FCV has a more advanced hydrogen storage tank, which can handle 5,000 pounds per square inch (psi) of hydrogen – compared with 3,600 psi in the previous version.

Together, the new battery pack, regenerative braking and storage tank help increase the driving range of the four-passenger FCV to between 160 and 200 miles – significantly improved from the previous version. The hybrid electric power system also gives the vehicle the “off-the-light” zippiness of a more conventional sedan and a top speed governed to 80 miles per hour.

In addition, the latest FCV features a new Ballard Mark 902 fuel cell stack, an integrated powertrain that combines the traction inverter module and electric motor transaxle, and improved packaging for crash safety and occupant comfort.