The P2000 Zero Emissions vehicle is fueled with hydrogen and powered by electricity, and Ford Motor Co. thinks it can start mass-producing a version by 2004.
In showing a driveable fuel-cell prototype at the show last week - and promising at least limited production - Ford joins General Motors and DaimlerChrysler Corp. in publicly committing to putting fuel-cell technology on the road.
The technology is one of several being pursued by the former Big 3 U.S. automakers under the industry-government Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. Next year automakers are responsible for delivering to the U.S. government driveable prototypes that achieve 80 mpg.
'We are exploring all the possibilities for alternative vehicles,' said William Powers, a Ford vice president for research. 'We are analyzing hundreds of technologies, including fuel cells powered by hydrogen, methanol, gasoline and other fuels.'
A fuel cell is essentially a hydrogen-powered battery. It creates electricity by passing hydrogen atoms through a membrane to strip away the electron from its proton nucleus.
The electron becomes current to power an electric motor, then rejoins the proton and air molecules to form water vapor for the tailpipe.
Ford also announced it is purchasing a stake in Pivco AS, a technology research firm based in Aurskog, Norway, that specializes in small electric vehicles.