IMAGE: FORD AIRSTREAM CONCEPT CAR
John Brecher  /  MSNBC.com
The Ford Airstream Concept car was unveiled Sunday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/8/2007 3:37:11 PM ET 2007-01-08T20:37:11

A concept touring vehicle unveiled by Ford Motor Co. at the North American International Auto Show, is centered around a fuel cell system.

Ford Motor Co. teamed with the maker of Airstream travel trailers to create the futuristic crossover.

Inspired by spacecraft and by the aerodynamic trailers that became icons of the American road, the Ford Airstream Concept pays homage to Airstream's riveted aluminum construction with its silver color, capsule-shaped exterior, orange-rimmed windows and 12 symbolic rivets.

"It's the ultimate modern touring vehicle that delivers flexibility and capability with dynamic design that evokes the spirit of the journey," Peter Horbury, Ford's executive director of design for The Americas, said in a statement.

The concept vehicle, unveiled Sunday at the North American International Auto Show, operates under electric power at all times, powered by a plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel cell that gets the equivalent of 41 mpg.

"This advanced fuel cell system is half the weight and cost of today’s fuel cells and can operate in the dead of winter," Ford said in a statement. "That’s a major step forward because today’s fuel cells don’t do well when the mercury dips below freezing."

In this application," the company added, "the fuel cell’s sole function is to recharge the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery pack as needed. This allows it to work like a portable generator, instead of an engine, as had been the case in previous Ford fuel cell vehicles."

The vehicle can travel 25 miles before the fuel cell kicks in to recharge a 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack, Ford said. With the fuel cell, the range increases another 280 miles.

The passenger side features a powered clamshell door that runs two-thirds the length of the vehicle, and there is a three-door hatch at the rear.

Inside, the focal point of the rear seating area is a screen for entertainment and games that also provides ambient mood settings, including a virtual fire.

"We want to continue finding options for tomorrow's road trips," said Bob Wheeler, president and chief executive of Airstream, based in Jackson Center, Ohio. "Our success ... has come from challenging the conventional thinking about what an Airstream is."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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