The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is one of the more eagerly awaited green cars coming this year.
With fuel economy projected at up to 48 mpg city, it improves considerably on the well-regarded current Ford Fusion Hybrid, which is rated by the EPA at 41 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, for a combined overall rating of 39 mpg.
According to Bloomberg, Ford has projected the 2013 Fusion Hybrid will get 47 miles per gallon city, 44 highway, for a likely combined number of 45 or 46 mpg. That's significantly better than the all-new 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Next year's new Fusion Hybrid is also one of four new Ford vehicles known to use a new lithium-ion battery pack that is smaller and lighter than earlier batteries.
Now Ford is touting the patent portfolio produced during development of the 2013 Fusion Hybrid and its soon-to-follow plug-in hybrid model, the 2013 Fusion Energi.
The company has been granted almost 500 separate patents on various aspects of the hybrid-electric powertrain; the exact number is 461.
A recent Ford release highlighted the contributions of engineer Ming Kuang, whose name is on 40 of those patents--25 of them in production today.
The 52-year-old Kuang is now the technical leader for vehicle controls at the company's electrification research and advanced engineering group at its Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters.
Kuang has been part of developing Ford hybrids since the late 1990s, leading up to the 2004 launch of the Ford Escape Hybrid--which was both the first hybrid crossover utility vehicle and the first U.S.-built hybrid of any kind.
Two years before the Escape Hybrid launched, Ford had only around 30 patents relating to hybrid technology.
Kuang attributes the increase in patent filings--up 25 percent in the last three years alone--to better cooperation and collaboration among members of the advanced engineering and product development teams.
With actual vehicle designers working more closely with the inventors who create new technologies, problems and needs during a car's development are more easily shared and the inventors can target their work toward providing solutions that help developers meet their launch deadlines.
2013 Ford Fusion HybridEnlarge Photo
Despite the increase in patent applications, the Ford attorney who files hybrid patents, David Kelley, took pains to say Ford "doesn’t engage in the practice of getting patents for the mere sake of getting patents."
The hybrid-electric vehicle area has seen its share of patent fights, and Ford is still behind Toyota in the number of global patents granted for all aspects of the technology.
But the proof will be in the pudding, so we're eagerly awaiting our dessert: the chance to drive a 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and see what kind of real-world gas mileage it delivers on our usual road-test mix of highway and stop-and-go driving.
Stay tuned for more.