Test-driving a Ford Escape Hybrid
Ford Canada has a media program where they lend cars out to writers; I don't drive a lot (and our car guy Mike was too far away) but had never been in a hybrid so took them up on their offer of a 2008 Escape hybrid.
My first reaction was that IT'S BIG! I asked Marketing Manager Sarah McGrath why they put such an energy efficient package in such a big car, and was informed that a) the Escape is Ford's smallest SUV, and b) that is where they thought the market would be. They are putting the drive train into other conventional cars as well.
Sarah McGrath explains some of the features of the Hybrid
The Escape is a full hybrid, so it switches between electric power (it can run on that up to 48 km/hr) or both gas and electric together. The gas engine is an Atkinson cycle engine that cranks out 133 horsepower.
Atkinson Cycle animation from Wikipedia." The Atkinson engine is essentially an Otto-cycle engine with a different means of linking the piston to the crankshaft. It was originally designed to compete with the Otto engine, but without infringing on any of Otto's patents."
That's the same kind of engine in the Prius; Atkinson cycle engines are "designed to provide efficiency at the expense of power" and burn very cleanly.
In the back, a 330 volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack runs a 94 HP electric traction motor. Combine the power of it with the Atkinson, and you get a satisfactory shot of accelleration when you press the pedal. But you rarely do floor it; there is something about being in a hybrid that makes you want to squeeze every drop out of it, and we tended to drive it carefully and follow all of Mike's rules for responsible, fuel efficient driving. It paid off.
Other green features are special low resistant tires, and an Interface upholstery fabric that is using 100% post-industrial waste. For those concerned about the durability of the car, Ford offers an 8 year warranty, but it only runs for 160,000 kilometers (100,000 miles), which sounds awfully low if someone is buying a hybrid because they drive a lot.
Since I rarely drive in town it sat in my driveway for a week, until I piled my wife, the kids and the new puppy in for something I had never done in my life- a day trip in a car, to Prince Edward County to visit a cheese factory.
I don't drive a lot and have never driven a midsize SUV before so I am perhaps not a good judge, but I was impressed at it's quiet interior, the smoothness of the ride, and the fabulous gas milage, hitting 50 miles per gallon for the week, far greater than I get on my little four-banger in my 2000 Subaru. About the only real complaint I had was the dreadful instrumentation; there was no way to really tell how good you were at squeezing out the mileage, and what is the point of a tachometer on a car with a continuously variable transmission? I really would have preferred that they take up its space with some feedback on instantaneous fuel consumption. (all the information on the 2009 Escape indicates that they have fixed this)
I must admit that I was impressed. It isn't very expensive at C$34,000 (a new Subaru costs more), seemed well built, and really sipped fuel. Perhaps we are all too critical of Ford and GM and their ability to retool and address our changing circumstances; let's see what else they can do.
Previously in TreeHugger on the Escape:Now That's Sexy: LA County Lifeguards Get Ford Escape HybridsNow That's Sexy: LA County Lifeguards Get Ford Escape Hybrids::Green Basics: Hybrid-Electric Cars::Popular Support For Hybrid Cabs in NYCSuperbowl Ads: Ford Escape Hybrid & Toyota Camry Hybrid