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First Drive: Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid


  • On Sale: Never, at least in current form. Currently undergoing testing  by Southern California Edison.
  • Battery Type: Lithium-Ion (current hybrids use nickle-hydride batteries)
  • Range: 30 miles on electric power only
  • Fuel Economy: Up to 120 miles per gallon (estimated)
  • Plug In Requirements: Typical 110-volt house-hold outlet

From the outside the Escape Plug In Hybrid, aside from the graphics, looks just like a normal Escape Hybrid. Inside the differences are limited to an upgraded LCD screen and audio head-unit.  Turn the key and you’re left with complete silence. No engine noise, no chimes, just the activation of the gauges and some lights. When a green indicator light on the dash turns on you know you’re ready to go.

Unlike the production model, this Escape Hybrid uses advanced lithium-ion batteries to provide more energy capacity and a deeper charge cycle.  These are the same type of batteries General Motors is developing for use in the Volt.  While the technology isn’t ready for prime-time use quite yet, development is happening at a staggering pace.

Driving the Plug In Escape is very much like the Escape Hybrid currently in production. Brake feel on the demonstration vehicles was vague and hard but not unlike the first generation Ford Hybrid platform. This isn’t a sporty vehicle and acceleration in electric only mode is decent at best. At 30mph or when more power is needed the gasoline engine kicks in and provides an impressive boost. One downside is that use of the A/C requires the engine to be running, however Ford will introduce an all-electric compressor in 2010.

Ford estimates the Escape Plug-In is good for about 120mpg, or about 4.5 times the fuel economy of the production model.  A house-hold outlet is all you’ll need to plug in and a full charge can be had in approximately 6-8 hours.  Ford imagines that consumers, by the time this technology comes to market, will be able to charge at home, or even at work or in specialized parking lots.

Technology within the charging system relays a unique ID to the electric company.  No matter where you plug in, the bill always makes it to the right address.  This solves a lot of logistical problems associated with folks plugging into employers or public outlets. If you were hoping to get a free charge from work during the day we’re sorry to say you’ve been outsmarted.

A fleet of Escape Plug In Hybrids has already been delivered to Southern California Edison and the Department of Energy.  Select Edison customers will have a chance to try out the vehicles but in its current form will never go on sale.  The Ford Escape Plug In gives a sneak peek into not only the future of Ford, but the automotive industry as a whole.

We were only allowed to take a short trip but our first impressions are very good. Ford isn’t commenting on when a vehicle like this will go into production.  Pressure from GM is mounting and Saturn will start selling a Plug In variant of the VUE Greenline next spring. We can’t imagine Ford would wait very long and with the impressive fuel economy plug in Hybrids bring to the table, consumers shouldn’t either.