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Driving the Ford Escape Hybrid

Aug 17, 2007
In January, 2007, I purchased a Ford Escape Hybrid four wheel drive vehicle. The Escape is a mid sized SUV that is smaller that the Chevy Blazer I had been driving for the past 4 years and is rated at 31 miles per gallon or about twice the 15 miles per gallon I was getting with the Blazer.

The four wheel drive system on the Escape is automatically engaged when needed and unlike many four wheel drive owners I actally need four wheel drive to get in and out to the road during the worst winter weather.

Under the hood is a gas engine and an electric motor and in the rear of the vehicle is a large battery that gets charged when you drive and when you brake. Like any new car you can lift the hood and look at what is under there but you might as well just close it back up because you are not going to do anything other than look unless you have the thousands of dollars of equipment needed to work on one of these engineering marvels.

You start the car up like any other vehicle by turning the key but you do not here the motor crank and then fire up. There are a couple of clicks back in the back and the motor starts running so you head off down the road.

The instrument panel is like any other car with a speedometer, a tachometer, and a fuel gauge. In addition, there are two more gauges. One is a needle gauge that tells you when the big battery in the back is either assisting the gas engine or powering the vehicle on its own. The other gauge is a digital readout that can be changed to show various types of information about the fuel consumption of the car and the electrical charge in the battery.

The most watched gauge, and the one I usually have in use, is a series of blocks that light up or darken in real time as your fuel economy goes up or down. This type of real time readout has been used on other vehicles in the past and is nothing new. But, since I bought this car with the intention of increasing my fuel economy significantly I watch this little gauge a lot.

The most gratifying time is when you are going down the street running on battery power with the gas engine tachometer on zero and the fuel economy gauge is all the way over to the highest fuel economy limit. A little pressure on the accelerator and you can watch you fuel economy drop.

The Escape hybrid system is set to go from a dead stop up to 26 miles per hour on the electric motor. But, this is variable depending on how quickly you accelerate. A quick acceleration will start up the gas motor almost immediately. With a lighter touch and a subsequent slower acceleration I have been cruising at about 35 miles per hour before the gas engine starts up.

Going down hill my speed has gone up to about 40 miles per hour before the gas engine begins to run. So economy in this vehicle, and really any other vehicle, is dependant upon how you drive it. What is really apparent when you start to drive in a more economic fashion is how fast everyone else wants to go.

When you want to pass someone or otherwise accelerate the electric motor comes on to assist the gas engine for more power. When you are driving on the gas engine and you decelerate the system charges the battery. Also when you brake the system charges the battery.

By the time you come up to a stop light the motor is off and you sit there waiting for the light to change and you are not burning any gas or giving off any emissions or making any noise. I have seen reports of people getting up to 35 miles per gallon with these vehicles and maybe with careful driving techniques I might some day be able to achieve that level of economy.
About the Author
Michael Dappert is a co-founder of Winco, Inc., a provider of wireless internet access to small communities in West Central Illinois. Everyone is invited to discuss a wide range of issues at Flyoverfolks.com .
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