Click on the image for a gallery of high-res images of the Ford E85 Escape Hybrids.

Ford unveiled the Escape Hybrid E85 flex-fuel SUV last month at the DC Auto Show. The 85 percent ethanol-capable Escape looks like its just the start of many projected flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) models being produced Ford, which has committed to doubling its FFV line-up by 2010. This could be expanded to 50 percent of total vehicles produced by as early as 2012 if the market dictates.

Certainly the U.S. Federal Government is mandating that petrol producers ramp up biofuel output, including ethanol and biodiesel, from 4 billion gallons / 15 billion litres in 2006 to 7.5 billion gallons / 28.4 billion litres in 2012. President Bush, who wants to reduce petrol use by 20 percent over the next ten years, proposed an alternative and renewable fuel output of 35 billion gallons / 132.5 billion litres by 2017 in his recent State of the Union address.

Ford is pushing for more incentives on biofuel production as well as for plans to be drawn up for the long-term move to cellulosic ethanol production, created from crops such as switch grass and sugar cane. Ford already has a partnership with biofuel producer VeraSun Energy Corporation designed to expand E85 fuel availability along the Midwest Ethanol Corridor for drivers of flexible-fuel vehicles. Ford is also working with BP to develop a variety of sustainable mobility solutions that optimize fuel economy and powertrain performance as well as reduce carbon emissions.

"Working with BP we aim to propose solutions that are acceptable to the government as well as the oil and auto companies," said Christophe Mangin, corporate alliance manager in Ford Business and Product Strategy.

Analysis: With the U.S. Federal Government dedicated to the widespread adoption of ethanol, we can expect to see a lot more E85 FFVs on the roads over the next few years. But what we really need is a wholesale switch to cellulosic ethanol production to gain the massive efficiency increase this promises over corn-based ethanol production.



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[Source: Ford press release]

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