2018 Ford EscapeEnlarge Photo
In recent years, Ford Motor Company's plans for putting more plug-in electric cars on the road have been, shall we say, murky.
GM has the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, sales of its Chevy Bolt EV 238-mile electric car have risen every month, and it plans a pair of all-electric SUVs by 2020—but Ford now offers just two vehicles that plug in.
With Ford C-Max Energi production ended, its sole vehicles with plugs are the five-year-old Ford Fusion Energi and the even older Ford Focus Electric compliance car.
Ford regularly issues press releases about its plans for electrified vehicles; on Monday, the Fusion Energi spawned a new model, the Ford Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan.
That vehicle, it said, is "designed for police and fire chiefs, detectives and other non-pursuit law enforcement personnel."
But where exactly is Ford going with future plug-in electric cars?
2018 Ford Special Services Plug-In Hybrid SedanEnlarge Photo
According an August report from industry trade journal Automotive News (subscription required), next year it will launch a Ford Escape plug-in hybrid along with a conventional hybrid version of its Ford Expedition full-size SUV.
Those vehicles' luxury counterparts, the Lincoln MKC compact crossover and Lincoln Expedition full-size SUV, will similarly get plug-in hybrid and hybrid powertrains respectively.
The article attributes the news to "sources with knowledge of Ford's product plans."
The most important of the three vehicles may be the plug-in hybrid Ford Escape, which would return a fuel-efficient hybrid to the company's top-selling compact crossover utility line.
It appears the Escape will soldier on for at least a few more model years before an entirely new design is released.
When the Escape was last redesigned for 2013, its hybrid version was not continued. The current Escape has had various engine changes over its life and a mild update for 2017 that included a new front styling.
2012 Ford Escape HybridEnlarge Photo
The Escape Hybrid was replaced in Ford's lineup by the 2013 C-Max Hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid models, which did not offer either the popular utility-vehicle design or all-wheel drive as an option.
The Ford C-Max Hybrid was also hit with not one but two reductions in its EPA fuel-economy ratings after widespread media coverage and owner complaints that it came nowhere near its original rating of 47 mpg combined. It's rated at 40 mpg combined for 2018.
Making the Escape a plug-in hybrid could differentiate what may be called the Escape Energi model from other hybrid crossovers without plugs.
With the launch of the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and the 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid, and a Honda CR-V Hybrid anticipated for next year, a hybrid Escape is a logical offering in the surging compact crossover segment.
The two hybrid full-size SUVs are equally important as Ford works to comply with rising corporate average fuel economy rules even as its sales mix shifts more and more from passenger cars to bulkier utility vehicles and trucks.
Any hybrid system used in the Ford Expedition is likely to find its way into the Ford F-Series full-size pickup truck for 2020 or later, as Ford has long promised.
2018 Ford ExpeditionEnlarge Photo
The large SUV shares underpinnings and an aluminum body with that pickup, which is the highest-selling vehicle line in the U.S.
A hybrid F-150 pickup truck is among the 13 different hybrid, electric, or plug-in hybrid models Ford said several years ago it would launch by 2020.
But the company's lack of detail about its future plans for hybrids and electric cars has attracted the attention of Wall Street analysts not yet convinced that the company can handle an increasingly rapid transition to plug-in vehicles, especially in China, the world's largest car market.
Automotive News quoted from an investor note written by Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, who said his bank was "hopeful for a significantly upgraded level of transparency" from Detroit's second-largest automaker.