Friday, January 11, 2008

Ford 'Escapes' Traditional Establishment

One thing I can't stand is when people close off their minds and concentrate on one aspect of a problem and end up totally ignoring the real solution. Often, the solution involves several key factors that come together to solve the problem. In moving towards energy independence or GHG emission cuts there is not one reasonable scientist, engineer, or other intelligent civilian that would tell you there is one single solution. While a concise vision of our transportation fuels future will allow for the appropriate infrastructure to be built, there should be absolutely no competition between hybrids and flex fuel vehicles -- they are both extremely important components to build a successful renewable fuels fleet in the United States.

So what really gets me is car companies seemingly refusing to incorporate two fuel-saving technologies into one car. This is why Ford's announcement that they had built an E85 capable hybrid Escape back in January of last year was such a great step away from the status quo. As a personal note, I actually got to see this car in person and was very impressed with its size and design. What's more is that, when powered by 85% ethanol and with the benefits of the hybrid drive train, the car can get 40% more gas mileage (12mpg more) than regular escape models and emits 25% less GHGs from its tailpipe than hybrid escape models (this is on top of the carbon capture accomplished by the corn used to make the ethanol). Although Ford doesn't plan on mass producing these vehicles until a better E85 infrastructure is created in the United States, it is great that one of the companies is joining two important components of our renewable fuels industry.

As a final thought, and something that I would like to write about in the future, Ford is leading the way in a third technology. It's something I touched on a few days ago in my post on turbocharging engines run on E85. Ford seems to have the first model of this technology, known as Ecoboost, which will be placed in their 2008 Lincoln. According to Ford, the Ecoboost's turbocharging engine can run on E85 (although it doesn't have to), and results in a V4 having the same power as a V6 and a V6 having the same power as a V8. All this while accomplishing 20% better fuel mileage. With the cost savings in the system, Ford says that the initial cost of purchasing a car with Ecoboost will be recouped within 2 and a half years. This might not sound great but when compared to how long the average hybrid takes to recoup the up-front costs (12 years) the Ecoboost may be able to penetrate developing markets such as China or India much faster than hybrid vehicles.

Ultimately, we need to see a vehicle created with hybrid technology, as well as an Ecoboost engine in the United States. I think the vast increase in fuel economy and the ability for American to pay up-front in order to receive benefits later on will allow the car to be a success here in the States. Hopefully Ford and the auto industry will respond to the fact that consumers want a solution.

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