• May 25th 2008 at 8:54AM
  • 13
Click above for a high-res gallery of the lifeguard Escapes

The Los Angeles County Lifeguards (cue the Baywatch theme and visions of Pamela and the shirtless Hoff) are getting new rides. A fleet of customized 4WD Ford Escape Hybrids is replacing the group's current pickup trucks, and the first ten (of a total 45) have been delivered. Changes made to the Escapes for lifeguard duty include the replacement of the center console with a radio rack and the removal of the 60% side of the 60/40 split rear seat. In its place is a storage unit for emergency equipment. The lifeguards' Escapes are also fitted with heavy-duty rubber mats and are literally topped off with a custom roof rack. All are finished in the signature yellow paint, which is further accented with special graphics and dark wheels. It's a pretty spiffy-looking package overall, and the hybrid part of the equation surely appeals to many in the Golden State. You can read Ford's lengthy press release after the jump.

[Source: Ford via AutoblogGreen]

  • Ford to provide a fleet of 45 customized Escape Hybrids to the Los Angeles County Ocean Lifeguards.
  • The full-hybrid SUVs will be used for rescue patrol along 72 miles of Southern California coastline.
  • The front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet, returning 34 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway.
  • Intelligent four-wheel-drive models are also available, with fuel economy of 29 mpg city and 27 highway.
LOS ANGELES, May 23, 2008 - Ford Motor Company is teaming up with the Los Angeles County Lifeguards, a division of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, to help save lives while protecting the environment. Today, Ford presented the squad with the first 10 of a fleet of 45 eco-friendly Escape Hybrids with Intelligent four-wheel-drive, specially equipped for use on rescue patrol along 72 miles of Southern California coastline.

"We are the largest lifeguard organization in the world, and we have always blazed the trail for the profession," said Mike Frazer, chief, Lifeguard Services, Los Angeles County Fire Department. "We wanted to be the first public safety agency in the country to go green."

"This continues the Escape Hybrid's impressive string of endorsements," said Hal Dewsnap, California regional sales manager for Ford Motor Company. "In addition to being clean and fuel-efficient, the Escape Hybrid is highly functional and durable, proven in hundreds of thousands of miles in taxi service in New York and San Francisco. Now, we are adding lifeguard duty to the list."

There is no better vehicle for that assignment than the world's most fuel-efficient SUV. The front-wheel-drive Ford Escape Hybrid returns 34 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway. Intelligent four-wheel-drive models, like the ones used by the lifeguards, return 29 mpg city and 27 highway.

"The Escape Hybrid is one of the cleanest vehicles available today," said Dewsnap. "It meets California's strict Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) standard. To put it in a California summer context, this means it releases fewer smog-forming emissions into the atmosphere during a three-hour drive (about 180 miles) than grilling one hamburger in your back yard."

Frazer says he knew that the Escape Hybrid was an ideal choice from an environmental standpoint, but he admits to having some initial reservations about whether an SUV would function as well on the beach as the compact pickup trucks the lifeguards were used to driving.

"The switch from a pickup to an SUV was something new to us, but when Ford brought the Escape Hybrid down to the beach, we were amazed at how well it performed," he said, adding that he was particularly surprised by the vehicle's ability to navigate through the sand without getting stuck.

With the Escape Hybrid, Frazer says he was also able to make more precise turns, enjoy extra headroom (he's 6'5") and gain greater visibility, which is a huge safety plus on the beach.

"We need to be able to see as much as possible because there's so much activity on the beach, especially in the summertime," he said. "When we're responding to a rescue, we want to get there quickly and safely."

Shortly after that initial field test, a team of designers from Ford's Irvine studio visited the beach to do a little "guerrilla research," says Ford designer Jeff Nield.

"These people save lives, so this was not just an exercise in styling," said Nield. "We wanted to design features for them that are functional and could potentially save them valuable time in an emergency situation."

Careful inspection of the previous trucks the lifeguards were using revealed various makeshift storage areas for critical equipment.

"What happened in the past is that different lifeguards would set vehicles up differently, so if you worked at one beach and then got called in a crisis to another location, you would have to search to find the emergency tools you needed because the storage area was not standardized," he said.

The Ford designers decided to remove 60 percent of the rear seat on the driver's side and replace it with a rescue equipment storage unit - an aluminum box with specially designated spaces for important emergency equipment, such as defibrillators, trauma boxes and oxygen tanks.

The remaining 40 percent of the seat was left intact in case the lifeguards had to transport someone, such as a lost child.

According to Ford Design Project Manager, Greg Hutting, the lifeguards' multiple radios also presented the design team with a challenge.

"In the previous vehicle, they had three or four different radios pushed wherever they had room," he said. "We pulled out the center console and replaced it with a radio rack that keeps all of their equipment lined up and organized."

Ford designers also outfitted the Escape Hybrids with a custom-fit roof rack for the lifeguards' paddle board and spine board, and easy-to-clean rubber floor mats and cargo liners.

When it came to the exterior, Nield says it was important to make the vehicle look "fresh but not trendy." The vehicles were painted a vibrant yellow - iconic for lifeguards - and then detailed with authoritative graphics and finished off with dark wheels.

"We really pushed to make the vehicle look as rugged as possible," said Nield.

Frazer says he couldn't be more pleased. "The vehicles look amazing, they perform great and they are hybrids, so they are good for the environment," he said. "It's a win, win, win situation for us.

It's also a win for Ford Motor Company.

"These guys are going to be pushing these vehicles to the limit, and they need the best vehicle to get the job done," added Nield. "They had choices, and they chose the Ford Escape Hybrid."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Dont lay out at Mandalay unless you want your head crushed by drivers checkin out chicks instead of watching where they are going.
      • 7 Years Ago
      While I think that a hybrid, operating in sand with a heavy, continuous AC load will fail to return any better results than a regular gasser, this will be an interesting fleet experiment for Ford how the Hybrid bits hold up to continual exposure to salt water and salty sand.
      • 7 Years Ago
      sure highway and city driving, but what is the MPG of driving on loose sand?
      • 7 Years Ago
      reminds me of a matchbox car
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why the need for black wheels??
        • 7 Years Ago
        Cuz they look awesome with the yellow paint?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Only thing I want to know is, why can't I buy an Escape that color? The only remotely interesting paint option is that weak-sauce sea green. The rest are the normal litany of white, silver, gray, burgundy, blue, black, blah. I want some more cars in chartreuse, mango, canary yellow, and tangerine.
      • 7 Years Ago
      What's the over/under on inattentive kids hit in the first year of operation?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I agree... it's already a problem with people being run over by the lifeguards... imagine with the silent hybrids. Although I have to think that there will be little regenerative braking and the gas engine will likely just run all the time.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hopefully they do not run over people this time.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I was to lazy to read the whole thing. But i'm hoping it was the engine that was custom. Cause there gonna need some power to roll around the sand.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have a hard time believing a small SUV can replace a pick up truck.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Apparently you aren't familiar with what they use now. Basic small to midsize pickup trucks, nothing special.
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