Ford Escape Hybrid Endures Commuter's Nightmare Road Test
The Ford Escape Hybrid (the first hybrid SUV) was run through a grueling "commuter's nightmare" road test at the New York International Automobile Show. During the road test, the Ford Escape Hybrid averaged over 38 miles per gallon in a nonstop 37-hour drive in and around New York City.
The hybrid SUV started the test with one 15-gallon tank of gas. That one tank of fuel and a 330-volt electric battery kept the Ford Escape Hybrid running for 37 consecutive hours of city driving in the grueling urban congestion of Manhattan, for a total of 576 miles. The resulting fuel economy of the hybrid version of the Escape is a 75 percent improvement over the 20 mpg that the Environmental Protection Agency rates the conventional Ford Escape V-6 at.
An electric motor powered by a 330-volt nickel-metal battery pack and a conventional gas internal combustion engine are combined to run the Ford Escape Hybrid. When driving, the system chooses whether to use power from the electric motor or the gas engine, and when extra power is needed it will use both at the same time. Unlike some hybrid vehicles, the Ford Escape is capable of running on electric power exclusively, and at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. The system constantly evaluates how to maximize fuel economy, and will use the best combination of electric and gas power to achieve that.
The casual observer will be unable to tell the difference between the hybrid and conventional versions of the Escape as they look exactly the same, and in fact come off the same assembly line. The dash board even appears normal, though there is a battery level gauge, and the tachometer has a below-zero setting that indicates the vehicle is running in electric only mode.
In a midtown-Manhatten road test, the Ford Escape Hybrid performed at the same levels you would expect from a conventional SUV, despite the fact that it ran much of the test in electric-only mode. The gas engine kicked in smoothly when needed, and in electric-only mode the vehicle is nearly silent.
When the gas engine is running, it also recharges the battery. Power generated by braking is also used to charge the battery (called regenerative braking). Despite common misconceptions, hybrid cars never have to be plugged in to an external electrical source for charging.
The Ford Escape Hybrid is a good option for those struggling to choose between fuel economy and the comforts found in a SUV. You get the improved fuel economy and reduced emissions of a hybrid commuter car, and also the 4WD performance of a conventional SUV with plenty of room for passengers, pets, and cargo.