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Ford Airstream Electric Concept Car 202

Posted by kdawson
from the fill-it-up-with-H2 dept.
Not to be upstaged by GM's plug-in electric concept vehicle, Ford has unveiled its own concept. The twists are design by Airstream and a hydrogen-powered fuel cell to charge the battery. From the AutoblogGreen article: "The fuel cell, made by Ballard, turns on automatically when the battery charge dips below 40 percent. With the on-board charger (110/220 VAC), the battery pack can be refilled at home. Ford says the HySeries Drive is 50 percent smaller and less complex than conventional fuel cell system and should have more than double the lifetime."
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Ford Airstream Electric Concept Car

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  • Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:37PM (#17598018)
    This is where there is a lot of money to be made. A plug in vehicle that has a range of about 40 miles will take care of the business that most people use in their day to day lives, while having a small fuel cell or gasoline generator available for occasional longer journeys will make it feasible as a normal car. They just need to make sure it doesn't look like the Prius and handles like a normal car (and not a tin car) and they can make a lot of money. But then again this is Ford. They'll invent the systems while Toyota or Honda will actually make an effective product.
    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:47PM (#17598108)
      I don't know ... I understand that Sony will be supplying the batteries.
    • by Engineer-Poet (795260) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @11:47PM (#17599038) Homepage Journal
      Two kinds of Unobtanium, actually:
      • The inexpensive, long-lived room-temperature hydrogen fuel cell, and
      • Hydrogen fuel every 150 miles or so.

      Without either of those, this is just a short-range electric car. <yawn>

      PEM fuel cells have been one of the two stumbling blocks for hydrogen vehicles for years. It wasn't long ago that a stack for a car cost a half a million to a million dollars (due to hand-assembly and platinum content) and had a fairly short lifespan. Li-ion batteries to get the same range would cost a fraction as much, and they are coming down in price/kWh at a steady rate. Lifespan is going way up with the new chemistries and nanoparticle materials.

      Hydrogen is the other form of Unobtanium. It would take something like a trillion dollars to build out a new hydrogen-fuelling infrastructure to replace petroleum motor fuels. (Got a spare trillion handy, or did it go for Bush's War?) Further, the production of hydrogen from non-fossil energy sources is very inefficient [blogspot.com]; a PEM electrolyzer is maybe 75% and a PEM fuel cell is about 60%, for a best-case throughput of 45% (before compression energy is considered). In contrast, a lithium-ion battery is about 95% efficient.

      There are no ways around this; production of hydrogen from e.g. aluminum is much lossier than electrolysis [blogspot.com]. Making a renewable hydrogen economy requires not one but two kinds of Unobtanium.

      So why's the US government pushing hydrogen? It's my suspicion that the oil interests want all the alt-energy money spent on things which cannot work, thus guaranteeing that taxpayer-funded research will never threaten their gravy train. A few million dollars in campaign funding thus buys them many $billions in increased revenue; probably the best investment they could ever make.
      • by donaldm (919619) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:56AM (#17599980)
        Picking the right type of sustainable fuel is extremely difficult however it is very important for politicians to understand the energy equation of each fuel source. Unfortunately I think most politicians are "technological cretins" and only have a interest in what will get them elected or re-elected so choosing viable and appropriate fuel sources becomes more and more reliant on "interest and lobby groups".

        Currently fossil fuel (includes diesel and petrol) is mainly used for transport and looks like being this way for some time to come. Alternative fuels in the form of bio-diesel and ethanol are being touted as a viable alternative to fossil fuel however even these fuels have their drawbacks since you still need to actually grow, harvest, produce and deliver the fuel to the consumer. Bio-diesel is currently seen as the most viable alternative fuel (cheaper and less polluting) since most diesel vehicles can run on it with little or no modification while petrol engines do need to be modified (some more than others) to run on ethanol which is not that environmentally friendly and has a lower energy equation than bio-diesel. On average diesel is approx 30% more efficient and diesel engines usually have allot more torque at much lower RPM than their equivalent petrol counterparts.

        You are right so say "So why's the US government pushing hydrogen? It's my suspicion that the oil interests want all the alt-energy money spent on things which cannot work, thus guaranteeing that taxpayer-funded research will never threaten their gravy train.". I would add many governments are touting this around the world and so far nothing has come of it although hybrid (ie. petrol/electric and diesel/electric) are viable. Again you really have to look at the energy equation (time does play a part here) to see if current hybrids are truly viable and cost effective.

        Before everyone runs out and buys a diesel (equally applies to a hybrid) I would suggest you do some homework since diesel cars are normally more expensive than their petrol counterparts and you may have to travel a fair distance before you start to save. If the costs are the other-way around (mine was) then it becomes easier to make the decision. Of course buying a motor vehicle is a matter of personal choice and prestige as well and fuel efficiency may not even enter the equation.

        The following is an interesting read on the potential ways of manufacturing alternative fuels. The heading reads "'Flashy' New Process Turns Soy Oil, Glucose Into Hydrogen" so read into that what you may.

        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/06110 3083833.htm [sciencedaily.com]
      • by dammy (131759)
        As a consumer and someone who CAN produce his own hydrogen (Living in South Florida, I certainly do have access to significant amount of solar energy), do I really care how ineffecient splitting water is compared to a perfect solution? I know, I'm an evil SOB for even thinking individuals can tell the oil company AND government to go stick their pricing and taxes where the sun doesn't shine. But the last is what has the leftist in the biggest uproar, hydrogen will mean a shortfall of tax revenues needed t
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by canadacow (715256)
      I must be a complete idiot when it comes to car aesthetics--what's really so bad about the look of the Prius? When I think of an ugly car, typically I think of the standard "penis-extension" type vehicles with a rear spoiler that has trouble clearing low bridges, not a Prius.
  • by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:37PM (#17598022) Journal
    Is that visual design supposed to be some sort of physically manifested sarcasm about "green" cars? How do they expect to win over the SUV crowd with the mirror plated SissyMobile? At least make the thing look respectable when pulling up to Home Depot.
    • by Ucklak (755284)
      Thing reminds me of Ark II
      http://www.retrojunk.com/details_tvshows/644-ark-i i/ [retrojunk.com]
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      No, it's supposed to remind you of an Airstream trailer. Thus the name "Airstream." Duh.

      Is it me, or are the comments here getting dumber over time?
    • Granted it's butte ugly but not everyone has to drive SUVs and monster trucks. Some of us aren't trying to compensate for physical size limitations. Besides women are catching onto the fact the bigger the vehicle the bigger the disappointment.
    • by malsdavis (542216)
      At least make the thing look respectable when pulling up to Home Depot.

      I don't think the words "respectable" and "Home Depot" belong in the same sentence. When your driving back home with several 10 ft pieces of lumber poking out the back and tins of paint everywhere, the car's bodywork will be the least of your style worries.
      • My point was that there is a fair portion of America that wants to look good while hauling lumber, just look at the commercials for full size trucks. We don't need another design for those already wanting to drive super-green cars, we need something for the folks who say "Screw that tinfoil wrapped POS I want a HEMI"
    • by arivanov (12034)
      No. The visual design is "Ford tries to copy Renault/Matra Avantime". The result for some reason looks ends up looking like a slightly squashed Ford Transit. Surprise, surprise.

      There are quite a few posts about this car being nonviable in other threads. Dunno about this, but IMO it is clearly a viable competitor to the GM electric crapmobile in at least one category. Definitely - it can compete with it on ugliness.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      Is that visual design supposed to be some sort of physically manifested sarcasm about "green" cars? How do they expect to win over the SUV crowd with the mirror plated SissyMobile?

      That kind of reaction was also typical in the time the first automobiles started making their way. "Horses are for real men, automobiles are for sissies!".

      It's best advised that you have more open mind about it, as improvements require changes.

      My personal opinion of their design is: it's a concept design. Like any concept design i
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:40PM (#17598052) Journal
    appealing. http://www.electroauto.com/index.html [electroauto.com] Examples of some that are available. They are less shiny, less costly, and still get the same performance as standard plugin systems that are new. I just don't like the way that such cars seem to require a special new look. meh! Just build a nice commuter car with fantastic mileage, that's what we really want.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Mard (614649)
      Haven't you ever heard of a solar sail? This car is shiny because shiny reflects sunlight and generates propulsion. Leave it to Slashdot to complain once a major auto manufacturer finally produces the first mainstream solar powered car...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by posterlogo (943853)
      Just build a nice commuter car with fantastic mileage, that's what we really want.


      Agreed. That's what we want. What we need is to commute less (telecommute part time where possible, work closer to our homes) and use more public transportation. These hybrids are great and I want one, but it's easier and cheaper to make a dent in our fossil fuel consumption by making manageable lifestyle changes.

  • Driving Hazard (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NFN_NLN (633283) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:57PM (#17598180)
    If you're driving with the sun behind you and this thing is driving towards you, the glare would blind you enough to veer off the road!
  • Ok, they say that you can recharge the Li-Ion batter by plugging it in. How do you recharge the fuel cell? They say nothing about electolisys.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by waterm (261542)
      I doubt that on board electrolysis would be worth the additional vehicle weight. It seems that hydrogen refueling is left as an exercise to the operator. Although it would be amusing to have to plug your car into the wall socket AND the garden hose.
  • li-ion (Score:2, Interesting)

    Dont these cars use lithium ion batteries? Dont li-ion batteries lose capacity rather quickly? How often do you hybrid/electric drivers replace these batteries? How much do they cost?
  • And you thought high beams were bad.
    • Hey, think of it this way... some jerk is coming at you with their high beams on, but *you* are driving *this* car. He blinds himself as much as he blinds you, and figures out to turn them off!

      This is a perfect idea!
    • by 3waygeek (58990)
      Sometimes, high beams are good [dontforward.com].
  • by mystyc (561347) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @10:04PM (#17598228)
    A concept car is just what I am looking for to drive to my concept job!
  • so we can drive around town on full electric and we can fill up on gas when we go on long trips. Stop *telling* us we want hydrogen cars.
    • Boy did I cringe when Bush suddenly got all excited about hydrogen. I wonder if he believes the nonsense or if he's in on the lie. He's really not dumb; that just plays well to many voters.

      Pressured by the Japanese hybrid success and all the environmentalists, the US car industry had to do something. They created a distraction. Hydrogen is something they can research for decades, and probably a great excuse for federal research funding. It's something to keep us from thinking about hybrids and regulations.
    • That is the funny part. I sent in the GM article, because for once, GM has it mostly right. I am not certain that they will get it out the door based on some of the things pointed out in the discussions as well as the backpedaling that GM is doing. But the plug-in hybrid WITH motor/generator is absolutely the way to go. In fact, GM's e-flex arch. may be the best way to go (basically, electrical drive/small battery pack combined with your choice of power generator or possibly more batteries). But all of the
  • by bohemian72 (898284) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @10:10PM (#17598286)
    Look at this picture. [autobloggreen.com]

    I half expect that central column to start pumping up and down with a high pitched grinding noise as the vehicle slowly disappears.

  • Is it significantly better than a gas turbine or Stirling engine? If not, it might be better to run a Diesel powered gas turbine to charge the battery.

     
    • I keep saying this [slashdot.org]. Perhaps they're forcing E85, and fuel-cells on us unstead of doing the proper thing -- they want us to buy their cartridges, and fuel, just like Gillette, and the razors.

      Otherwise, a gas-turbine powered car is most ideal as a generator for an electric car. I'd sure like to see my Subaru without a transmission, and far less mechanical resistance -- and prolly far better than the 26.7mpg that I get commuting 40m each way.
    • by cyfer2000 (548592)
      It doesn't run on foreign oil, is this good enough? BTW, even you are running on ethanol or bio-diesel, you still need oil to produce fertilizer.
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @10:20PM (#17598372)
    Hey, I think I played one of those things in Rifts. [wikipedia.org]

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @10:44PM (#17598546) Homepage
    In the article about the Chevy Volt concept car, I ranted about why GM didn't just manufacture and market the EV-1? Most people "don't want" 2-seater cars with an 80-mile range? Fine, no problem, don't try to sell it to most people, just sell it to the few people that do.

    Well, since then, I've read Clayton M. Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Great, great book. Everyone should read it. And I'm stunned by how perfectly the car companies are falling into the exact trap he describes. And how perfectly the electric car fits his definition of "disruptive technology." And, yes, he does talk about them in the last chapter.

    Chevy and GM need to spin off a small division, a la IBM spinning off the Boca Raton PC division, to make and market an electric car. Not a future "sustaining technology" electric car that meets the needs of existing customers of gasoline cars. (Hybrids a la the Prius are a perfect example of that). Just... EV-1's, which are known to have a small market... a market which puts different values on things than the existing car market. A small spinoff for which that market is worthwhile. A spinoff that plays by its rules and doesn't need to compare the profit margin of an EV-1 with the profit margin of a Suburban, so it won't divert all its effort to building Suburbans. A small spinoff that will sell the cars to anyone it can find who will buy one, and will thereby find the new market for them.

    Then, over time, the existing business for currently feasible small EVs will result in learning curve improvements, economies of scale, better batteries, longer ranges, bigger vehicles and suddenly one day the mainstream buyer will notice that the electrics _are_ competitive for the traditional market.

    Yes, I know... you can tell that I've just read Christensen's book. Which has been out for a decade. But judging from the big carmakers, I'm not the only one who hasn't read it.

    Just do it, Detroit. Stop fooling around with the concept cars, the great stuff that's always been just around the corner since 1939. Don't build a prototype of tomorrow's car, build a real car, now, and sell it, today.

    Just start up the EV-1 line and build some more. Just like the last. Then sell them. Then build some that are a little better. Then sell them. And s on.
    • by MtViewGuy (197597)
      I think someone should put up a LOT of money to those MIT researchers that recently developed a supercapacitor using carbon nanotubes that store far more energy than previously possible to develop this technology further. That right there resolves two huge problems with electric cars, namely the size of the battery pack and the recharge time.

      The EV-1 failed because frankly, who wants a car where most of the interior volume is taken up by the battery and recharge times can approach eight hours?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by doctor_nation (924358)
      I just watched "Who killed the electric car" tonight and saw this post and thought two things: 1) Why do they need concept cars when every single auto manufacturer had production electric cars? 2) Only 40 miles on a single charge, when the EV1 did better than that with older battery technology, and probably could be upgraded to 300 miles? Ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that every single car company repossessed almost every single electric car- there's a coincidence for you.
    • by carlivar (119811)

      Just start up the EV-1 line and build some more.

      Sorry. The plant where they were made is now closed. [wikipedia.org]

      Too many people buying Toyotas and Hondas... ironic, when you think about it.

    • by evilviper (135110)
      A spinoff that plays by its rules and doesn't need to compare the profit margin of an EV-1 with the profit margin of a Suburban, so it won't divert all its effort to building Suburbans.

      Isn't that exactly what GM did with Saturn several decades ago?

      A failed experiment that has just recently come to an end.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by canadacow (715256)
      The EV1 is impractical for a number of reasons, most problematic are the batteries themselves, strangely absolved in the mockumentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" 1) Because of the charge-discharge strain placed on the batteries, they would have required an expensive replacement every 25000 miles. Gradually the car's range would dwindle to uselessness, just like a laptop battery does with age as well. 2) When talking about emissions, the 2004+ Prius actually beats out the EV for emissions according to
  • Confusing Article (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tesla15 (834968) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @11:09PM (#17598700)
    This article was confusing to me also until I read the press release by Ford-http://media.ford.com/newsroom/release_displa y.cfm?release=25150 [ford.com]. This is a hybrid in that it is powered by a Li-Ion battery and a Hydrogen fuel cell. There is a "350-bar hydrogen tank that supplies 4.5 kg of useable hydrogen". So you can plug it into the wall to recharge the battery but you must recharge the fuel tank with hydrogen. Also the battery only gives you a distance of 25 miles whereas the Fuel cell gives you 280 miles. There is no electrolysis.
  • When your batteries dip below about 60%, you start to cut into their lifetime much more significantly. While hydrogen is a very "expensive" energy source (in terms of what goes into processing it), it's a nice backup to help you on longer trips without having to sacrifice battery lifetime.

  • That's great. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by x1n933k (966581)
    However, the way these cars are produced, shipped and lubricated are with fossil fuels. Not to mention there is no infrastructure for fuel cells. How do you produce and transport hydrogen? Fossil fuels. How do you produce natural gas? How about the batteries being used. Built in China with machinery powered by coal?

    Concepts like this are a joke. It's not how to replace the cars we drive is getting rid of them and transporting people efficiently which will make the difference.

    [J]

  • Why so ugly? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why are the modern cars of the jet set radio future always so ugly? Telsa Motors [teslamotors.com] is doing right what everyone else is doing wrong.
  • A few years ago Ford was announcing hydrogen and electric cars, then they nixed the whole idea in marketing form. My friend thought they stopped marketing the New Ford image because of governmental crackdown on hydrogen, but he's more paranoid than me, it was probably some other reason. Now I'd like to know where they got their fuel cells from, because last time I checked it was the Finns that had hydrogen fuel cells worked out. They use them for generating electricity when camping and so on. It was said
  • by snilloc (470200) <jlcollins@NOspAm.hotmail.com> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @12:28AM (#17599370) Homepage
    One thing I don't get about the whole plug-in-only concept is why these cars don't have Photo-voltaic cells to complement the battery system. Solar-only doesn't work, but in many areas you could squeeze out significantly more "miles per charge" with a solar panel. And for commuters, your car sits outside in the lot for most of the peak collecting hours anyway, not anywhere near a charger.
    • by Ken_g6 (775014) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:58AM (#17599996) Homepage
      It's interesting - I've done some math on this before, and it's not really worth it.

      After efficiency losses from engine and alternator, one gallon of gas [wikipedia.org] is equal to at least 10 KWH of electricity. Realistically, about the best you could do with solar panels is to cover 2 meters of the car with ~15% efficient panels = 300 watts (max). Now assume you get 12 hours of full sun directly on the panels each day (which is impossible). That's 3.6 KWH/day, or about a third of a gallon of gas. More realistic solar panel data (PDF) [spsenergy.com] gets about 1/5 of that in real life.

      That might not even be worth the extra weight of solar panels and equipment!

  •   I know who killed the electric car --- the auto makers with their butt ugly designs. Concept Cars make or break ideas. Ford just killed the electric car.

        Honda should add plug in ability to their FCX concept car for 2008.
  • Bar none. I'd choose a Geo Metro over this.
  • Some companies announce products that never come out to dissuade consumers from buying existing technology. Successful companies produce products that actually make money and get rewarded for their innovation.

    See: Windows Vista vs. Mac OS X, Chevy Volt plus this Ford thing vs. Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius
  • WTF is up with that body design? It looks like Ark-II [angelfire.com].

    Is Detroit trying to make electric/hybrids as ugly as possible? What happened to all those sleek, jet-age futuristic designs dating back as far as the 1940's? You could grab just about any one of those designs, stick a hybrid engine in it, and have a winner.

    Schwab

  • Who designed this thing? The Jetsons?
    • by HermanAB (661181)
      If you have ever seen an Airstream polished aluminium RV, then you'll understand. Fugly doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • is that ugly! I mean, just... wow. It looks like 70's future-chic threw up into a metallic space-dildo.
    • by HermanAB (661181)
      Actually, Airstream RVs have been around since about 1935. Unfortunately, the damn things are indestructable, since they are made of aluminium. Fortunately, the shine does wear off eventually - after 50 years or so...
  • All these comments about how weird it looks and how it will cause accidents because it is too shiny...it's a concept car! Do you not understand the concept of a concept car [carbodydesign.com]? They are merely exercises in experimentation design-wise, with particular emphasis on capturing people's attention, and often have 10x more outrageous elements than the shiny finish on this one.

    Also, have you people never heard of Airstream trailers [wikipedia.org]? They're a pretty damn famous American icon and symbol of an era where people were ac
  • Well, they are trying. The Airstream look is a fun idea. Might appeal to some people.

    However, they should really quitely and without fanfare just switch to making all
    cars plugin hybrids. That will work as a business.
  • For some reason all US cars these days look like something you'd rather go to war with than take a ride to the grocery store in. They all look like tanks. Heavy armored look, narrow windows that minimize exposure to enemy fire... no wonder they don't sell in Europe. Have people become so militarized and indoctrinated with the idea that "life is war" that their psyche actually wants cars like this?

    I mean, at least in a crash you can try being in the bigger vehicle so that you're less likely to die while the
  • First thing noteworthy in my mind was the USB/Firewire compartment in the back right below the video camera compartment. WTF? Were they just sticking labels on the doors?

    Next, some of the images of the car in action made me think of the car as something familiar but I couldn't quite put my finger on it until it hit me. Does this car remind anyone else of the Oscar Meyer weiner car?!
  • by yoder (178161) * <progressivepenguin@gmail.com> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @10:55AM (#17602304) Homepage Journal
    GMs pretend vehicle just got one-upped by Ford.

    GM -- "...and our vehicle will make your toast and tie your shoes!"

    Ford -- "Well that's nothing! Our vehicle will fly, read your thoughts and, and, and...and it has the Cloak of Invisibility!!! Yea! That's it!."

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