American automakers are on the rebound, thanks in part to a new commitment to small, fuel-efficient cars. Ford, which avoided the auto bailout drama, has made great strides since with its Fusion Hybrid and the fun and affordable Fiesta. (The Fusion Hybrid and Fiesta were named 2010 and 2011 MOTHER EARTH NEWS Best Green Cars, respectively.)
Ford’s latest success story comes in the form of its mpg-boosting gas engine technology known as “EcoBoost,” an engine-downsizing strategy that allows smaller engines to do the work of larger ones. With EcoBoost, you get V8 performance on a V6 appetite, or four-cylinder mileage with V6 power. The engines use gasoline direct-fuel injection and turbocharging to “boost” their power output to that of a much larger engine, yet they deliver better fuel economy and lower emissions.
Ford is also active in the development of electric cars. Its biggest news on this front is an electric version of the popular Focus compact car, to be released later this year. The Focus Electric will have a 100-mile range, and like the Nissan Leaf, will rely on an advanced lithium-ion battery system. It differs from the Leaf in that if you install a 240-volt home charging station, you can fully charge the car in just three to four hours — about half the time required to charge the Leaf. The Focus Electric’s instrument panel makes gauging your energy consumption on the road easy, so you can maximize the number of miles you squeeze out of each charge.