Ford sending E85-capable Ford Escape Hybrids out for testing

click the photo to see high-resolution shots of the E85 Escape Hybrid

Not content to let the unveiling of the hydrogen Ford Edge with plug-in capability take up all of Ford's media space today, the company also announced that 20 demonstration E85-capable Escape Hybrids will be sent to six U.S. States for testing, starting this spring. Ford says the Escape Hybrid E85 is the "world's first hybrid vehicle capable of operating on blends of fuel containing as much as 85 percent ethanol," but other companies are working on ethanol hybrids ( Saab comes immediately to mind, and their BioPower concept can use E100).

Putting E85 in the tank of an Escape Hybrid E85 means the SUV produces about a quarter less carbon dioxide emissions than a gasoline-fueled Escape Hybrid. Ford isn't saying which states will get the Escapes, but the press release (which you can read after the jump) makes mention of the Midwest, so perhaps that's a clue to where these SUVs are headed.

[Source: Ford]

  • Ford's Escape Hybrid E85 can operate on renewable ethanol-based E85 fuel.
  • If just 5 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet were powered by hybrids operating on E85 ethanol, oil imports could be reduced by about 140 million barrels a year.
  • Escape Hybrid E85 produces about 25 percent less carbon dioxide than a gasoline-fueled Escape Hybrid – already the world's cleanest and most fuel-efficient small SUV.

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 23, 2007 – Ford Motor Company announced today 20 new hybrid research vehicles will be delivered later this year to demonstrate a dual mission; help reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At the 2007 Washington Auto Show, Ford displayed the first Ford Escape Hybrid E85 scheduled for delivery this spring. It is a demonstration vehicle marrying two petroleum-saving technologies – hybrid electric power and flexible-fuel capability. Escape Hybrid E85 is the world's first hybrid vehicle capable of operating on blends of fuel containing as much as 85 percent ethanol, a renewable fuel that can be produced from American-grown corn or sugar beets. And ethanol use releases no fossil-based CO2, so its use as a fuel in place of gasoline reduces the release of greenhouse gases.

Ford is producing 20 demonstration Escape Hybrid E85 vehicles for use in fleets in six different states. Deliveries will begin this spring.

"As a leader in both hybrid vehicles and in vehicles capable of operating on ethanol-based fuels, Ford is the ideal company to bring both technologies together for the first time," said Nancy Gioia, Ford Motor Company Director of Sustainable Mobility Technology Lab and Hybrid Vehicle Programs.

"This innovative research program could lead to breakthroughs to significantly reduce our nation's dependence on imported oil while also helping to address global climate change," Gioia said. "Both the Escape Hybrid E85 and the ethanol fuel it runs on are made in America."

Ford already is a leader in both technologies:

  • Ford has two full hybrid electric vehicle models on the road today – the Ford Escape Hybrid and the Mercury Mariner Hybrid – and has announced three additional hybrids, the Mazda Tribute, Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan.
  • The company produced 250,000 ethanol-capable vehicles last year, including the Ford F-150 pickup truck, as well as the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car large sedans.

Ford Developing New Hybrid Models

The world's first hybrid SUV, the Ford Escape Hybrid, was introduced in 2004. Along with the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, it remains the cleanest and most fuel-efficient small SUV available anywhere. No other American automaker today offers even one full hybrid vehicle.

Ford Motor Company will introduce several new hybrids in the coming years, including a Mazda Tribute Hybrid in 2007 and hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan midsize sedans in 2008.

A Fuel from the Heartland of America

E85 is a fuel blend that contains 85 percent ethanol and only 15 percent gasoline. Ethanol is a completely renewable fuel that, in the U.S., most commonly is made from corn. Gasoline sold in the U.S. frequently contains up to 10 percent ethanol, but an increasing number of vehicles on the road today can operate on blends containing up to 85 percent ethanol.

"If all of the nearly six million flexible fuel vehicles now on America's highways operated on E85, more than 3.6 billion gallons of gasoline could be displaced a year. That would be equivalent to saving a full year of gasoline consumption in a state like Tennessee or Missouri," said Sue Cischke, Vice President of Environmental and Safety Engineering.

Additionally, ethanol-fueled hybrids could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Ford Escape Hybrid would produce about 25 percent less carbon dioxide if operated exclusively on renewable E85 ethanol fuel instead of carbon-rich gasoline.

Last year, Ford partnered with VeraSun Energy Corporation to create the Midwest Ethanol Corridor, increasing the number of E85 pumps along two major highways to encourage greater availability of E85 fuel at retail filling stations. Today, E85 is most commonly available in parts of the Midwest.

Ford has committed to making half of its vehicle fleet flexible fuel capable by 2012, as part of a national energy strategy to tap the potential of renewable fuels that includes incentives for vehicle production as well as incentives to increase the availability of renewable fuels.

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