Ford Hybrid Shows Green Can Be Fun If You Enjoy Being Despised

By dancurranjr On June 11th, 2009

ford fusionI have become what I most hate. As the traffic light turns green on Manhattan’s Park Avenue I feather the gas pedal, softly rolling forward. Horns blare and yellow cabs swirl round my blue Ford like a river divided by a rock.

I coast the Fusion Hybrid to the next light, ignoring the invective directed at me, the maddeningly slow driver clogging up traffic.

But damn I’m getting good gas mileage.

If sports-car lovers fixate over Nurburgring lap times and power-to-weight ratios, there’s an equally obsessive eco-green set who argue over consumption-over-distance ratios and the etiquette of hypermiling — the practice of driving to maximize fuel economy.

The latter group has another midsize hybrid to obsess about, and this time it’s from a U.S. automaker. Ford’s Fusion Hybrid gets Environmental Protection Agency estimates of 41 miles per gallon in the city and 36 on the highway.

But it can achieve better than that — way better — driven “correctly.” Ford advertises that the 17.5-gallon tank will last you for 700 miles in the city, yet a Ford team wrangled 1,445 miles in a test — more than 80 mpg. The problem is that the driving style needed to achieve those numbers will raise the blood pressure of your fellow road users.

The midsize sedan seats five and starts at $27,270, a sizable premium over the base $19,270 Fusion. A $1,700 Federal hybrid tax credit is good until Sept. 30.

Braking Energy

Ford’s other available hybrid is the $29,645 Escape Hybrid SUV, which also seats five and gets 34 city, 31 highway. There are also Mercury versions of the Fusion and Escape, the Milan Hybrid and Mariner Hybrid. In all, Ford has upped its hybrid production to 50,000 units for 2009.

The Fusion Hybrid has a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor for combined power of 191 horses. Ford says the car can operate up to 47 mph in electric mode. Like the Toyota Prius, it uses nickel-metal-hydride batteries and a regenerative brake system to recapture energy.

As for looks and design, except for the shiny three-tiered grill and the honeycombed taillights, it has about as much style as knit sweaters. From the lackluster rims, which look like they’re made of plastic, to the generic sedan shape, the Fusion has no flash whatsoever. Both the rear seats and the trunk are cramped as the battery pack is stored back there.

The economical aesthetic extends to the interior. You like your plastic garnished with cheap-looking cloth? You’re in luck. Fortunately, heated and leather-trimmed seats are available, as is Ford’s fine SYNC infotainment system.

Digital Display

Engineers spent lots of time on the instrument cluster, coined SmartGauge. The digital display flashes fancifully when you turn the car on, showing a speedometer flanked by data on the operation of the hybrid systems and real-time mileage.

How much information you get is up to you. There are four modes, from basic “inform,” giving only fuel and battery charge levels, to “empower,” which even tells you how much energy the air conditioning is sucking.

The goal is to use the readings to maximize your driving efficiency. It definitely works, though it can be as distracting as a video game.

As with other hybrid and electric cars, there’s no start-up noise when you switch the Fusion on, and the continuous variable transmission means there’s no shifting. The transitions between gas and electric power are mostly seamless.

Slow Start

The Fusion has a tight turning radius and though you won’t mistake the steering or suspension for a German-made car, they are acceptable. Power is adequate. It’s no less fun to drive than a Toyota Camry.

Which brings us to those driving techniques that make you public enemy number one. The best mileage is achieved when the electric motor is on, and the best way to do that is to avoid stopping or, when you must, to start off again very slowly.

This is, of course, the opposite of New York City driving etiquette — mashing on the gas to surge through gaps and slamming on brakes at stoplights. Mincing through traffic instead put me in real-time mpg of 60.

The art of hypermiling is controversial as it can include illegal maneuvers such as rolling through stop signs and drafting, or following another vehicle closely to reduce wind resistance. Ford says the team who got 80 mpg did not do that.

Either way, you have to keep the speed down, often to far slower than the flow of traffic. Hitting a parkway, I drive a steady 55 miles per hour and get 50 mpg. Nice. Eyes on the SmartGauge, I slow down. At 49 mph an octogenarian in an Oldsmobile blows by, honking her horn. Embarrassing, but I’m in the 60-mpg range.

I kick the air conditioning up to full blast and the SmartGauge scolds me for sucking lots of extra energy. I quickly stab it off, feeling sheepish.

In fact, I feel a bit giddy. Green can be fun. I wonder how long it takes for this feeling to fade. I’m guessing the first time you’re late for work.

SOURCE: Bloomberg

Ford Hybrids Get Points for Green SUVs

By dancurranjr On June 4th, 2009

Mercury Mariner Hybrid 'Presidential Edition'Billed by Ford Motor Co. as the world’s most fuel-efficient sport-utility vehicles, the Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid offer a way to “drive green” and save gas without giving up interior space and versatility, says a representative of a local dealership.

“The Mariner and Escape hybrids have all the advantages people expect of SUVs — a high driving position, excellent outward visibility, plenty of cargo room — but their fuel economy is better than you get with many smaller vehicles,” said Barry Almonrode, sales consultant at Bill McCoy Ford Lincoln Mercury of Muncie.

While most cars achieve their best gas mileage on the highway, the Escape and Mariner hybrids get their best economy in the city, so they are most beneficial to those who run many errands in town or commute in traffic, he said.

“Even if you drive a small car, your fuel economy can drop to the low 20s if most of your trips are in stop-and-go conditions,” Almonrode explained. “In comparison, the Mariner and Escape hybrids are rated at 34 miles per gallon in the city.”

While Ford’s hybrid SUVs include several technologies not used on conventional vehicles, such as two-mode, gas/electric powertrains and regenerative brakes, these hybrid functions are controlled automatically, so there’s nothing special the driver needs to do, the company says.

“Orchestrating many of the functions is the job of the Vehicle System Controller,” Ford says on its Web site. “Among other things, it shuts the engine down during coasting and at stoplights to save fuel, converts the electric motor to a generator during braking to help recharge the battery pack, and helps manage powertrain-related functions.”

To test the ability of its hybrid SUVs to save gas and perform reliably under severe conditions, Ford has supplied Escape Hybrids to several New York City taxicab operators.

“With hundreds of thousands of miles accumulated over the past two years in New York City, there has been an estimated fuel savings of $250,000 for the initial fleet of 18 Escape Hybrid taxis,” the company said in a news release. “Now there are 288 Escape Hybrids in taxi service throughout the city, and drivers are reporting that the hybrids are delivering on the durability requirements and fuel-saving advantages that make them a great choice for taxi use.”

The Mariner and Escape hybrids both have 153-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, 94-horsepower electric motors, 330-volt batteries and electronically controlled, continuously variable transmissions.

Other standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, Sirius satellite radio and Ford’s “SYNC” system, which provides for hands-free control of the audio system and a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone.

Many people who buy an Escape Hybrid or Mariner Hybrid on or before September 30, 2009, will qualify for a $1,500 federal tax credit, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site (

Because the tax credit is scheduled to phase out as manufacturers sell more of each hybrid model, the credit on the Escape and Mariner hybrids will drop to $750 on October 1, 2009, the agency reports.

SOURCE: Star Press

Ford Escape Hybrid Offers Electric Vehicle Speeds Up To 40 MPH

By dancurranjr On May 27th, 2009

escapephev3500Ford Motor Company has developed some interesting new innovations for its Escape Hybrid SUV. One is called Easy Fuel, which now comes standard on every new Ford Escape Hybrid. This means there is no gas cap involved when fueling the SUV.

Everything about this SUV is nice. For example, the vehicle actually uses no fuel when you’re stopped in traffic or driving at lower speeds. The electric mode will activate, at speeds up to 40 mph, which will turn off the gasoline engine automatically.

The electric vehicle has an EPA estimate of 34 city and 31 highway. This is a far more MPG rating that most standard automobiles. The Escape is powered by a 2.5L Atkinson-cycle I-4 engine and it handles seamlessly when converting to electric mode operation.

Ford uses a nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) battery which is stored under the flat rear cargo area. It is completely sealed and encased in the load floor. The Escape has a new Hybrid component which recharges the NiMH battery each time you apply the brakes.

While the Regenerative Braking System will recharge the battery, the energy gets stored for later use. When you hit the brakes in a conventional automobile, the energy is lost as heat. However, the electric motor on the Escape Hybrid captures this energy and sends it back to the battery pack to be stored for later use.

The AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control (RSC) is also introduced in the Ford Escape. This is a stability control system that measures the yaw and roll motion on the vehicle. If the driver turns a corner too quickly, or swerves to avoid an object, the RSC will automatically apply brake pressure while adjusting the power to the engine to maintain control.

Another great feature in the Ford Escape is called the in-car voice-activated communications system. This allows you to operate most popular MP3 players, Bluetooth-enabled phones and flash drives with simple voice commands. Ford now includes 911 Assist and a Vehicle Health Report feature.

Ford’s Navigation System is also available, which can provide detailed freeway exits, turn and ramp transition lane guidance, and street name announcements. The system includes a 10GB hard drive for storing photos, ripping CDs, and managing music with the Jukebox function.

Ford Motor Company is one of the first automakers to unveil eco-friendly seats in its Escape Hybrid SUV. The seats are made up of bio-based polyurethane foam derived from the oils of various plant seeds. Most of the material is made up of soybeans.


Ford To Speed Up Development of Escape Plug-In Hybrids (PHEV)

By dancurranjr On February 14th, 2009

ford-escape-hybridFord is turning up its electric vehicle game a notch by announcing an addition of seven utility partners to its testing program. Ford currently provides Ford Escape plug-in hybrid electric vehicles as fleet vehicles to select groups in order to gather feedback on its electric technology, and the increased numbers of test participants will help speed up the commercialization of PHEVs. Ford is also planning on bringing a full battery electric vehicle van to the commercial market in 2010, along with a small BEV sedan developed jointly with Magna International by 2011, and aforementioned PHEVs by 2012.

Currently, Ford and the Electric Power Research Institute conduct real-world tests on the fleet of Escape PHEVs, and will soon be joined by the following utility partners:

* New York Power Authority
* Consolidated Edison of New York
* American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio
* Alabama Power of Birmingham, Alabama, and its parent, Atlanta-based Southern Company
* Progress Energy of Raleigh, North Carolina
* DTE Energy of Detroit
* National Grid of Waltham, Massachusetts
* New York State Energy and Research Development authority, a state agency

EPRI provides financial and logistical support for the study of the new PHEVs and studies the regional differences and the impact on the electric grid, as well as the vehicles. Research within the PHEV field is focused on four primary areas: battery technology, vehicle systems, customer usage, and grid infrastructure. Other areas of exploration include stationary battery application and the value of energy storage. Ford and EPRI have a three-year agreement that started back in March.

The Ford Escape PHEV can operate in two modes when fully charged, either in electric drive or a blended electric/engine drive. One main advantage of the high-voltage lithium ion battery is that it is not range-limited by the amount of the charge in the battery. When the battery runs out of juice, the Escape will then operate as a standard Ford Escape Hybrid. When driven on city streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can manage up to 120 mpg — about 4.5 times greater than a normal Ford Escape. Getting a full charge on a standard 120V household current will take from six to eight hours.

Ford has also announced it has entered a partnership with Johnson Controls-Saft to supply the lithium-ion battery systems for Ford’s first PHEVs. The agreement calls for delivery in time for production by 2012 with a target of at least 5000 units annually. The battery cells will be produced at the supplier’s production facility in France, but the battery system will be assembled in the U.S.


Used Ford Escape online

Ford Motor Planning Plug-In Hybrids for 2012

By dancurranjr On February 4th, 2009

Ford Motor says it will have plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in showrooms in 2012, promising 30 miles on battery power before the gasoline engine kicks in.

Ford plans to underscore that promise with an announcement here today that it has contracted for lithium-ion battery cells with Johnson Controls-Saft, a U.S.-French joint venture that manufactures the batteries in France.

Ford’s buying enough cells for 5,000 plug-in vehicles a year and will assemble them into auto battery packs in North America, says Nancy Gioia, Ford’s hybrid chief, but she wouldn’t specify where. Nor would she say what the plug-in vehicle would be.

Ford is demonstrating the technology in a 2009 Escape SUV.

Ford becomes the latest automaker to set a public deadline for offering the fuel-saving vehicles, known as PHEVs.

General Motors says it will sell a PHEV version of the Saturn Vue compact SUV in late 2010 or early 2011. If the Saturn brand has been sold or discontinued, as GM has hinted, another GM brand would sell the PHEV.

Toyota Motor says it will sell a PHEV soon but hasn’t been specific.

GM, Nissan and Chrysler have said they will sell battery-only vehicles in the U.S. in 2010; Ford in 2011. Those are not hybrids and must be recharged by plugging into a household outlet for hours.

GM’s Chevrolet Volt battery car, promised for November 2010, is unusual. It has a four-cylinder gasoline engine to recharge the batteries or run a generator to power the car, but the gas engine never directly drives the car, as it would in a true hybrid. GM says Volt can go 40 miles on a full plug-in charge.

PHEVs have smaller, lighter, less-expensive batteries than pure electric vehicles. But they have bigger batteries than conventional gas-electric hybrids, so they can run longer on batteries only.

As a result they potentially can use no gasoline in shorter drives and hit 50 to 100 miles per gallon in longer drives.

Seattle-area tests of Toyota Prius hybrids converted to plug-in operation show an average 51 mpg in 17,636 miles of all types of driving, according to Scott Thomsen, spokesman for Seattle City Light, a utility company participating in the trials. That rises to an average 59 mpg in 8,886 miles of mainly city use, he says. The U.S. Department of Energy is overseeing the experiment.

Gasoline-electric hybrids already sell for $2,000 to $4,000 more than similar gasoline vehicles, and “there will be a premium for the plug-in capability” beyond that, Gioia says. Chevy Volt will be priced “under $40,000,” according to Tony Posawatz, who has directed the Volt’s development.

Source: USA Today