If you ever had any doubt that hybrids were durable--and many people do--here's a case study to set your mind at ease.

A white base-model 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid has just crossed 500,000 miles, which possibly makes it the highest-mileage Escape Hybrid on the road.

That's much higher than the Escape Hybrids with 300,000 miles of taxi service in San Francisco--at which point they were retired.

Bayer Protective Services, a private security-patrol company in Sacramento, California, owns the hybrid Escape--known as Car 804.

It's part of the company's fleet of Ford Escapes--both hybrid and regular.

And Car 804 remains in active duty, although the company did have the car detailed and tuned up to celebrate its half-million-mile mark.

"The car has had a full life," says company executive Adam Bayer.

But as of today, it's going back into 23-hour-per-day service.

Consistent MPG

Best of all, Bayer says, the half-million-mile hybrid Escape continues to deliver the consistent gas mileage that made it an attractive buy in the first place: 30 to 35 mpg.

2008 Ford Escape Hybrid owned by Bayer Protective Services, Sacramento, CA

2008 Ford Escape Hybrid owned by Bayer Protective Services, Sacramento, CA

All but one of the 25 vehicles in the company's fleet are Fords of one sort or another, and Bayer Protective Services was one of the first security companies to buy hybrids.

In 2008, the company also bought some non-hybrid Escapes, and a conventional Escape known as car 801 (also white) provides a good comparison to 804.

That vehicle had to have its transmission replaced, costing $3,000, meaning its cost-per-mile was higher even outside of its higher fuel consumption.

The conventional Escape hasn't racked up anywhere near the miles of the hybrid, though.

"No matter how well we take care of the cars," Bayer says, "you can't fix bad drivers before they have an accident."

Thick records binder

As Bayer notes, "We keep copious records on all our vehicles," including "starting and ending mileage, fueling, miles per gallon, and any issues" encountered during a shift.

"Most vehicles have a 3/4-inch or 1-inch binder," he chuckles, but now "804 has a 3.5-inch D-ring binder."

The only modification made to 804 by Bayer on delivery was to add a light bar on the roof, along with a control box inside the car, plus company logos on the exterior.

2008 Ford Escape Hybrid owned by Bayer Protective Services, Sacramento, CA

2008 Ford Escape Hybrid owned by Bayer Protective Services, Sacramento, CA

The company routinely changes the oil in all its vehicles every 7,500 to 10,000 miles, using only synthetic oil.

Bayer notes that the hybrid Escape seemed to require less-frequent brake replacement than the conventional version, although its discs have been resurfaced and it's been fitted with new pads several times.

That's due to the regenerative braking a hybrid vehicle uses to slow the vehicle while recharging the battery pack.

Like any car that's covered half a million miles, 804 has had its share of maintenance over the years:

  • Wheels and suspension get normal wear and tear, and it's had its share of flat tires--and several sets of new tires since 2008.
  • The steering column has required replacement twice
  • At 253,000 miles, the Escape Hybrid required more than $2,000 worth of work to its anti-lock braking system, including replacement of the main unit
  • In February 2011, it was involved in a major front-end collision--which required most of the front sheetmetal to be replaced, and led to subsequent repairs, Bayer says
  • At 300,000 miles, the car needed major front suspension work, which Bayer attributes to heavy fleet use by a variety of drivers
  • At 323,000 miles, Bayer had the hybrid battery's filter replaced to eliminate acid build-up
  • At 402,000 miles, the throttle mechanism had to be replaced to cure the engine remaining at high idle all the time
  • The left front axle was replaced at 436,000 miles, and wheel bearings have been replaced several times--again due to hard use, Bayer suggests
  • At 450,000 miles, the in-dash digital display for the audio system wouldn't turn on consistently, and had to be replaced
  • At 480,000 miles, major repairs were required to 804's air-conditioning compressor and system
  • The driver's seat was replaced due to wear and compression--common to all of Bayer's higher-mileage vehicles

[NOTE: In response to several reader questions about the replacement of the steering column, Bayer wrote: The first failure occurred at 220,000 miles, and it was [ diagnosed as] a faulty sensor. At the time, Ford told us the only possible repair was full column replacement. There is now an update kit available, which we believe resolves the issue.]

2008 Ford Escape Hybrid owned by Bayer Protective Services, Sacramento, CA

2008 Ford Escape Hybrid owned by Bayer Protective Services, Sacramento, CA

"Aside from the steering column issue," Bayer says, "most of what has gone on is within what we would expect of a car [with this many miles covered]."

Issues before the accident, he says, were all just wear from racking up thousands of miles a month.

190-pound mascot

The high-mileage hybrid 804 has been a focus of the company's promotion, including a popular photo with Arthur, the company owner's late dog and company mascot (above).

The 2008 Escape Hybrid was brand new when the photo was taken--and, to answer a question frequently asked, Bayer says Arthur weighed about 190 pounds at the time.

The Bayer vehicles contain unarmed security guards who largely patrol large commercial properties--industrial parks, office complexes, and the like--around the clock.

Vehicle 804 spent its early years patrolling McClellan park, an office park built on the site of a decommissioned airbase.

It is now used on various patrol routes, covering all three 8-hour daily shifts.

Buying more a challenge

Bayer Protective Services would like to buy more Escape Hybrids, but Ford discontinued the vehicle after the 2012 model year.

"We like them more than recent vehicles," he says, "as they have been very reliable."

Two years ago, Ford released its own data supporting that conclusion as well, noting the extreme reliability of the hybrid systems after they had covered a combined total of more than 80 million miles.

Irv Gordon's 3-million mile 1966 Volvo P1800 coupe

Irv Gordon's 3-million mile 1966 Volvo P1800 coupe

When Bayer heard that some taxi fleets--including San Francisco's Yellow Cab--were getting rid of Escape Hybrids after a mere 125,000 miles, he said, he seriously considered putting in a call to propose buying them.

After all, he says, they'd just have been broken in at that point.

New target: 3 million?

We'd note that there's a goal out there for 804 to aim at, though.

The Guinness World Record for most miles on a passenger vehicle belongs to Irv Gordon's 1966 Volvo P1800, which will roll over 3 million miles sometime in September.

At its current rate of travel--five to six years to cover half a million miles--Bayer's white Ford Escape Hybrid should equal that mark sometime between 2038 and 2043.


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