Ford hybrid cars were
once mythical beasts rumored to exist in concept car back-shops
in offshore locations. When most people speak of the new
Ford hybrid car they are actually referring to Ford's
new hybrid Escape SUV.
That was until Ford announced
its new Fusion
will be hybridized in 2008. One must applaud Ford
for bringing the Escape hybrid SUV, with its 36 city and
31 hwy mpg ratings to market as well as the upcoming 2008
Ford Fusion Hybrid.
Off to a slow start in the car market, Ford has actually rolled
out a concept hybrid car, the Ford-Mercury Meta One Concept,
which is a diesel-electric hybrid and expects to have a crossover
production vehicle in the showrooms in 2007. "Meta One
is a test-bed for advanced technologies allowing us to highlight
future safety and power-train technologies that exist only in
theory and in laboratories today," says Gerhard Schmidt,
vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. The
Meta One is the world's first Partial Zero Emission Vehicle
(PZEV) diesel-electric hybrid. Ford is still hedging though
on whether it is calling this vehicle a car or an SUV.
Whatever it is, though, it is powerful. According to Ford,
"The Mercury Meta One concept draws its power from
a twin-turbocharged V-6 diesel engine and an electric motor
in the modular hybrid transmission that together produce
as much torque as a large V-10 gasoline engine - with much
lower fuel consumption. Combined with an advanced exhaust
after-treatment system, the power-train provides an unprecedented
combination of power and purity."
Designed to work with bio-diesel fuel, the engine is an
extraordinarily stiff Compacted Graphite Iron (CGI) engine
block that is twice as strong as a conventional gasoline
engine and much lighter. The CGI block handles more power,
less noise and shake and the twin turbochargers, aluminum
four-valve heads and piezo-actuated common-rail fuel injection
make it a state-of-the-art diesel fuel engine.
A Modular Hybrid Transmission (MHT), electric motor and
two hydraulic clutches replace the 6-speed automatic transmission
to provide a smoother ride and better fuel economy. Fuel
economy is especially realized at lower speeds.
The Ford-Mercury Meta One hybrid is also focused on safety.
The vehicle contains technology that will warn if the driver
drifts from his or her travel lane and even applies the
brakes if an accident is imminent. Ford's Lane Departure
Warning uses a camera system to recognize lane markings
and offer visual, audible and /or vibration warnings to
the driver if the vehicle departs from a distinguishable
lane without activation of the appropriate turn signal.
Ford will have to deal with the annoyance factor on this
one for those who wish to turn off the system if desired.
In the Meta One, Ford is using a CMbB (Collision Mitigation
by Braking) system, which is comprised on a camera, radar
and onboard computer that will determine if an accident
is inevitable. Once this determination has been affirmed,
and the driver fails to react, the system will initiate
the full anti-lock braking (ABS) without taking away from
any evasive maneuver the driver may employ.
Though the Meta One will probably remain a concept vehicle,
it will serve as a springboard for hybrid technology to
be implemented to Ford's already established lines of vehicles.
If future sales are successful there will most likely be
a Ford / Willie Nelson co-branding alliance and we'll start
seeing commercials for the new bio-diesel line of Ford hybrid
vehicles running on Bio-Willy to the tune of "On The
Road Again." What a concept!
Another concept vehicle that Ford has been touting is the
Ford Focus Hybrid Fuel Cell Vehicle . Like the name implies,
the Focus Hybrid is powered by hydrogen fuel cell, electric
motor and a Sanyo Ni-MH high voltage battery pack system.
Like other hybrids, the Focus Hybrid uses a regenerative
braking system to recharge the battery pack (Continental
Teves Electro-Hydraulic Brake (EHB) Systemz).
When the Ford Focus Hybrid Fuel Cell Vehicle is rolled
out, it will most likely be a fleet sales deal. The Focus
Hybrid may be used as a shuttle around airports, fairgrounds
or other large conventions. A local hydrogen fueling station
will need to be nearby, though as the infrastructure to
support hydrogen cars has not yet been built.
When the Ford Fusion Hybrid Car rolls out in 2008 it will
be the fourth full hydrid vehicle in Ford's lineup, with
the other three being Ford / Mercury SUVs.
There are several other Ford
hybrids rolling out within the next several years
that are worth checking out as well.