Ford Airstream Plug-In Hydrogen Fuel Cell Concept

Ford is playing to our space-age side with their futuristic crossover concept, the Airstream.

Ford designers looked to the iconic design of the Airstream trailers and the optimistic future of 2001: A Space Odyssey to create this plug-in hydrogen fuel cell concept vehicle unveiled at the 2007 North American International Auto show on Sunday.

The Ford Airstream concept is powered by a plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel-cell system called HySeries Drive. Interestingly, the hydrogen fuel cell is not the main power source. The Airstream runs on an electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries which are charged by plugging them in a standard wall socket, and the fuel cell simply acts as an on-board "generator" to recharge the batteries when needed while in transit.In pure electric mode the Airstream Concept can travel 25 miles before the fuel cell begins to operate to recharge the 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack. After that the hydrogen-power cell kicks in and can take the vehicle up to an additional 280 miles.

The fuel cell on the HySeries Drive system has a few advantages over others: It weighs about half what any current fuel cell does, so it will be more efficient on the vehicle it powers, and it costs significantly less to make. Also, current fuel cells don't do well when the mercury dips below freezing, but the HySeries fuel cell can operate in the dead of winter.

While the Airstream will never be made, the HySeries Drive technology is currently on the road in a Ford Edge prototype, which was created with partial funding from the U. S. Department of Energy. Is it reasonable to expect to see it available to consumers in the future? Who knows. Ford seems more in love with the actual design of the concept than the technology. In fact, I suspect the hydrogen technology may merely be a way to make their futuristic concept even more kitchy (space ships are supposed to run on hydrogen, right?)

When I see HySeries Drive at the dealership, maybe then I'll be excited. As I always feel about concept vehicles: "If you think the style and technology are so great, go ahead and make something you can sell me."

Tags: Detroit | Detroit Auto Show

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