Ford Motor rolled out a new hybrid research vehicle at the Washington Auto Show - the Ford Escape Hybrid E85 - which combines hybrid electric power with flexible-fuel capability.

The Escape Hybrid E85 produces about 25 percent less carbon dioxide than a gasoline-fueled Escape Hybrid, which Ford says is already the world's cleanest and most fuel-efficient small SUV.

So, why is it a "research vehicle" instead of a production model? Well, it turns out tailpipe emissions aren't the whole story. Evaporative emissions from highly volatile ethanol blends require a more aggressive evaporative system than needed for gasoline-powered vehicles. The problem is complicated in a full hybrid, because the evaporative vacuum system isn't activated when the vehicle is operating on electric power. More after the jump... Ford's working on it, though. Ford's director of Sustainable Mobility Technologies & Hybrid Programs, Nancy Gioia, says, "Ford researchers are applying some of the best expertise in the industry in hybrid power controls, flexible fuel operation and exhaust after-treatment. We’re working on the whole system, from the fuel tank through to the tailpipe, to optimize fuel efficiency and lower emissions.”

Looking ahead, Gioia sees hydrogen as the ultimate clean, sustainable power source, with hybrids and ethanol as useful near-term steps to reduce both environmental damage and dependence on oil.

[Source: Ford]

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