Ford Hybrid SUV Hits the Market

The new Ford Escape hybrid SUV is the greenest mass-market SUV ever to hit the streets.

| October/November 2004

The scramble is on for drivers interested in Ford’s new Escape Hybrid, scheduled to hit the U.S. mass market this fall. The hybrid Escape is the first U.S.-made hybrid and the first hybrid sport utility vehicle. It follows in the wake of Toyota’s highly successful 2004 Prius sedan.

Ford spokesman Jon Harmon says the company plans to produce 20,000 of the vehicles at Ford’s Kansas City, Mo., plant in this introductory year. The first 4,000 are to be sold in only 14 states, including California, Michigan and New York, as well as Washington, D.C. The balance of the initial run is scheduled to go on sale in January 2005 across the rest of the United States and in Canada.

And interest is high, Harmon says. By mid-summer, 55,000 people had requested information on the vehicle through the company’s Web site.

The front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid is projected to get 35 to 40 miles per gallon in the city and 29 to 31 mpg on the highway, compared to the conventional Escape, which averages only 19 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows the Escape Hybrid will save each of its owners more than $400 in fuel costs every year.

“The new Escape Hybrid is the greenest mass-market SUV ever to hit the streets,” says David Friedman, UCS’s clean vehicles research director. “The new Escape exemplifies the unique ability of hybrids to combine best-in-class fuel efficiency and emissions performance with the acceleration and utility customers have come to expect.”

The Escape Hybrid’s engine is a 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder, combined with a 65-kilowatt electric motor, designed to make the vehicle drive with power similar to that of a six-cylinder. Like other hybrids, the Escape has an Integrated Starter Generator that automatically shuts the gasoline engine off when it is not needed, such as when idling at a traffic light. Harmon says Ford swapped patents with Toyota for some parts of the SUV’s system, but the company did its own engineering. The Escape Hybrid produces 97 percent fewer emissions than federal standards permit and qualifies for Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) classification. Harmon adds that 85 percent of the vehicle’s parts are recyclable.

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