Could Ford Become a Leader in Fuel Efficiency?

Last week, I wrote a piece about two recent reviews of the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Essentially, I was questioning the positive coverage, as most of it, in my opinion, seemed a bit lacking in substance.
However, looking back, I realized I may have come off as a sort of Ford-basher. And that was not my intention.
To give you an example of what I mean, in the previous article, I referenced a Car & Driver review of the Fusion hybrid, that indicated a 34 mpg fuel economy when given a 300-mile test run. This is not impressive for a hybrid, or even for a non-hybrid in some instances. What I did not reference, however, was the EPA rating, which is actually 41 mpg city/ 36 mpg highway. For the sake of objectivity, this should have been included, and I regret that it wasn’t.
So when I found out that Ford was running an interactive webcast, I jumped at the chance to cover it. I figured this would give me an opportunity to ask some questions and ultimately provide you with more well-rounded coverage of the company’s latest hybrid offering.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid is actually a pretty decent vehicle. Of all the hybrids coming out of Detroit, this one does offer the best fuel economy. Also impressive is the fact that the vehicle can drive up to 47 miles per hour in all-electric mode. Now understand, this is not an electric vehicle, but the car can utilize this 47 mile per hour all-electric mode to ultimately squeeze out more miles per gallon. And that’s really what we’re after here.
In comparison to other hybrids on the road, the Fusion also offers a bit more room – which is nice, and necessary for those with large families or for those who carpool.
Overall, I’m happy to see Ford moving forward with its latest hybrid offering. I believe that the current economic and social environment has really pushed Detroit into a corner – forcing them to do something all of us know they should have done decades ago. And that’s offer up some truly fuel-efficient vehicles.
But Ford’s move toward greater fuel efficiency today doesn’t stop with the Fusion.
You may already be familiar with Ford’s Escape Hybrid. This hybrid SUV delivers 34 mpg city/ 31 mpg highway. Living in the city, and rarely driving more than a few miles per week, I can’t say I have much use for an SUV. But when it comes to SUVs, no other major automaker has delivered this kind of fuel economy. And Ford’s Plug-In version of the Escape is even more impressive. With an all-electric range of 30 miles, this could certainly be a winner for those who can’t seem to live without their SUVs These are expected to be in production by 2012.
In 2011, Ford plans to deliver an electric vehicle based on the Focus platform. The all-electric car will have a range of about 100 miles on a single charge, just like the company’s battery-powered van that is likely to be ready by next year.
This kind of van would be perfect for city delivery vans or municipal vehicles. And honestly, these are the types of vehicles we’d like to see the government purchase as it moves forward on integrating more fuel-efficient vehicles into government fleets. Whether its a major player like Ford, or a small start-up like Phoenix Motorcars, given a competitive price, there’s absolutely no reason our elected officials should not be foaming at the mouth over these things. After all, large purchase orders could certainly stimulate job creation and allow for the reduction in fuel costs.
And just yesterday, at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, Ford introduced a new concept Tourneo Connect. The vehicle uses a battery electric powertrain that was developed with Smith Electric Vehicles, and is expected to pull off a 100-mile range with a top speed of 70 mph.
Of course, even with all this progress, I must admit that our skepticism has not disappeared. After all, it wasn’t long ago when Ford (along with every other major car manufacturer) fought aggressively against new fuel economy standards. And in essence, they won By 2020, the corporate average fuel economy standard must reach an anemic 35 miles per gallon . Meanwhile, in Europe, Ford had no problem nearly doubling that, delivering 65.7 mpg with its Ford Focus ECOnetic. A far cry from the 24 mpg city/ 35 mpg highway offered in the 2009 Focus available here in the United States, and nearly 18 more miles per gallon than the 2009 Toyota Prius – which is the most fuel-efficient hybrid available today. Granted, the ECOnetic is a diesel. But with that kind of fuel economy, I can’t imagine there would be too much resistance.
There’s also the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, which was highly praised at the 2008 British Auto Show. This little turbodiesel gets 51 mpg city/ 74 mpg highway. Now Ford has indicated that it plans to bring the Fiesta ECOnetic to the U.S. next year. Unfortunately, it’ll be a gasoline, 4-cylinder that’ll give you about 40 mpg. Ever feel like you’re being cheated?
Still, Ford’s future efforts should not be blindly dismissed either. Bottom line: This is definitely a step in the right direction. And given the fact that the company has a lot of catching up to do, this latest hybrid offering is significant. Attractive, roomy, and better-than-average fuel economy is not something that should be shrugged off at this stage of the game. It may not be that ultra efficient PHEV so many of us fuel-conscious folks want, but it’s no slouch either.
Of course, I’m just one guy with one opinion. So tell us what you think about the Fusion Hybrid or any of Ford’s future electric vehicles.
Are they moving in the right direction?
Will they become a leader in fuel efficiency?
We’d love to hear your thoughts!

I am the co-founder and managing editor of Green Chip Stocks. We are an independent investment research service focused exclusively on "green" markets.

3 responses

  1. Ford is not making enough Escape Hybrids to keep up with demand. Just do a search on Ford dealer websites in your area. Escape Hybrids are virtually non-existent. So how exactly is Ford going to become a leader in fuel efficient vehicles if they can’t judge the market and make enough of the models people want?

  2. The reason the 75 MPG mileage isn’t here is not because of clean energy standards. That’s a convenient excuse. They can do anything they want to do. They could’ve made a 75 mpg vehicle that adhered to U.S. standards. They simply chose not to. Fortunately, that’s starting to change. I’m looking forward to seeing Ford’s new electric cars in a few years. But yeah, don’t make excuses for the car companies. At this point, based on all the data we have, throwing softball excuses out there is no longer acceptable. I don’t have ill will towards these companies…but I’m not turning a blind eye to the truth just because they’re finally starting to come around. And neither should you.

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