New York Auto Show
last week we had our first opportunity to actually go for a drive in one of
new plug-in hybrid
. Last year Ford announced a partnership with Southern California Edison to build and test
twenty plug-in hybrid Escapes
. SCE will be using the
in their fleet to evaluate performance, durability and mileage. They will also be testing out vehicle-to-grid technology using the Escapes. For our drive, Chief Engineer Greg Frenette accompanied us on a half hour drive around Manhattan, mostly in stop and go traffic. We also had an opportunity to open it up a bit on the West Side Highway.
The Escape that Ford brought out to Manhattan was the first of the twenty prototypes being built for the program over the next year and a half. According to Frenette as they build the vehicles they will be changing as the company learns from the previous iterations. The current model is based on the 2008
with the 2.3L four cylinder. Future vehicles that will be built starting this summer will use the upgrades planned for the 2009 models including the new 2.5L engine. The primary mechanical changes for this unit involves swapping out the standard 2kWh nickel metal hydride
pack in favor of a 10kWh lithium ion pack along with a charger and a plug mounted in the left front fender. Aside from that, most of the changes are in software with different calibrations to optimize the use of the lithium battery. Continue reading about the plug-in Escape after the jump.
The liquid cooled battery pack is provided by Johnson Controls-Saft. JCS is also one of the two development suppliers to
program. The trans-axles in the vehicles have been beefed up and an electric lubrication pump has been added to compensate for the fact that the engine is off much more of the time. The electric motor is unchanged from the production Escape hybrid. That means that the ability to run on electric power alone is still limited compared to a purpose-designed plug-in vehicle.
Although the lithium battery theoretically has the capacity to provide up to 10 miles of electric only motivation, in the real world, the limited power of the motor means that the engine will typically start up long before that. In typical driving, the battery has enough capacity to provide significant
boost for about 30-35 miles before the battery is largely depleted, getting you back to normal hybrid performance at that point. Even with that caveat, Frenette reports that Ford has seen up to 120mpg in city driving and 80mpg on the highway with the PHEV.