2010 Ford Escape HybridEnlarge Photo
Not only did the 2004 Escape offer the first hybrid SUV, it was also the first American-made hybrid electric vehicle. Six years later, the 2010 version still reigns supreme for efficiency in its class.
I test drove a 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid in the New York City area this past week as part of my quest to find the cleanest wheels available today. I took the 2010 Escape Hybrid across 200 miles over five days.
My conclusion? The current Escape Hybrid delivers on efficiency, performance, and comfort. However, I am ready and eagerly waiting for Ford's plug-in version.
Escape Hybrid InteriorEnlarge Photo
The 2010 Escape Hybrid features the solid hybrid platform of its predecessor. It has a "full" hybrid electric system, with regenerative braking, automatic stop-start of the engine, and the ability to drive in all-electric mode for a little over a mile (under 44 mph). I especially appreciated the "silent key start" in all-electric mode for greater fuel savings.
The EPA estimates 30 mpg city, 27 mpg highway for the 2010 Escape Hybrid. That's for the version with four-wheel-drive; the ratings improve to 34 city, 31 highway if you stick to the Escape Hybrid in front-wheel-drive form, which makes it lighter on the road.
Being a strategic hybrid driver, I gained slightly higher fuel efficiency by accelerating and decelerating gently. Over 200 miles, I used a little over 7 gallons of gas. This equated to 33.5 mpg overall.
As with most other hybrids, the Ford Escape Hybrid has an efficiency gauge that lets the driver know how well they are optimizing the energy for the car.
I was hoping that Ford integrated the "efficiency leaves"of the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid into the digital display of the Escape Hybrid. Instead, it comes with a rather rudimentary efficiency gauge (to the right of the gas gauge) that indicated whether I was charging the battery or using the assist function of the battery.
The tachometer indicated when I was in "EV mode" by simply pointing to the green "EV" battery symbol.
Escape Hybrid DashboardEnlarge Photo
The "Limited" trim model I drove came with four-wheel-drive and additional features such as a white leather interior, a rear-view camera system, heated seats, a moonroof, and a navigation system.
These features made the otherwise nondescript design and interior feel more like a luxury model. At $36, 800, the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited is not a bad price for a spacious and comfortable ride.
Escape Delivers on Cargo SpaceEnlarge Photo
So what is different between this model and previous versions? The biggest difference is that the 2010 Escape Hybrid now has added efficiency, since Ford switched from a belt-driven air conditioning compressor to an electric unit. This way, you can still drive in all-electric mode with the AC on and the gasoline engine off.
Hybrid Drive Info ScreenEnlarge Photo
For future Escape models, I think it is time for Ford to exhibit a leadership position once again and kickstart the introduction of the plug-in vehicle market. There is no doubt that Americans love their SUVs, and a plug-in SUV could add greater efficiency, fewer emissions, and fewer dollars spent at the pump.
Ford has announced that it will introduce its plug-in hybrid version of the Ford Escape in 2012, with a 30-mile range and a 10 kilowatt hour (kWh) lithium ion battery pack. This vehicle is currently in the demonstration and evaluation stage with several utilities nationwide.
Some entrepreneurial companies, including Rapid Electric Vehicles (based in Vancouver, CA), have developed an all-electric version of the Ford Escape. I drove their all-electric version last summer and was very impressed with the performance of their electric drivetrain.
For now, the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid is an "oldie" but still a "goodie." If you're in the market for an SUV with green cred, it's a prime contender.
Shannon Arvizu is a clean tech strategist and educator at Columbia University. You can find out more at MissElectric.com.