After a decade of research into hydrogen fuel cells for vehicle propulsion, the Ford Motor Company has put its Ford Fusion 999 hydrogen racer through its paces at the Bonneville Speed Week and recorded a scorching speed of 161mph.

The engineers and designers of Ford's project want to prove that an unconventional and greener motor can propel a car at a speed of at least 200mph. $quot;That's the goal,$quot; said project leader Matt Zuehik.

Having qualified with the 161mph run, the team returned to the track to make its first run at the target 200mph but were unable to reach even a mile distance before a faulty hydrogen sensor shut down the engine and curtailed the challenge.

Just 2 years ago, a group of Ohio State University (OSU) students asked Ford if it was interested in building a hydrogen-fueled race car and the result of that proposal appears to have made history. By producing such breakthrough speeds the car will help to alter the perception that alternative-fuel cars lack muscle and punch.

If this is successful, a considerable amount of credit will be due for the budding designers and engineers at OSU. The students believed that adding hydrogen fuel-cells to electric-only vehicles might allow for more speed and approached Ford with the concept. The car giant responded, by not only adding hydrogen power to the Buckeye Bullet streamlined dragster, but also modelling a potentially realistic version on the Ford Fusion.

Several hundred spectators gathered near the start line for the first attempt at a qualifying run by the Fusion 999, although a cooling pump derailed that initial run. Having repaired the problem overnight, the Fusion 999 raced towards history the next day and might have gone faster than 161mph if the driver, Rick Byrnes, had not activated the parachute a mile early.