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Ford’s 2005 Escape Hybrid is the first Gas-Electric SUV on the market. Don Neronde of Grass Valley Ford describes the vehicle as “the wave of the future.”

While the 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid is not the first hybrid on the market, it is the first hybrid SUV, the first hybrid from a domestic manufacturer, and the first hybrid to offer an all-wheel drive package. It qualifies as an “Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle,” (or AT-PVEV) which means that it produces 99.4 percent fewer emissions than a new car produced in the 1960’s, and less than half the smog-producing emissions of a conventional compact SUV.

By introducing the Escape Hybrid this year, Ford has trumped both Lexus and Toyota, which plan to bring out hybrid SUVs in 2006.

The Escape Hybrid is considered a compact SUV, and has a sleek, unimposing exterior, little different from the standard 6-cylinder gas engine Escape, except for a battery exhaust port on a rear window, and wheels that are designed around a “regenerative” braking system.

The brakes recapture energy normally lost as heat and covert it to recharge the battery pack, described as 250 D-sized cells in a sealed 330-volt nickel-metal hydride battery unit that sits under the cargo space floor. All of this battery power is completely self-charging, so the car is ready to go when you are.

The Escape Hybrid is offered at a MSRP between $26,780 and $28,405 base priced, but rebates are currently available. Check the Internet and you local dealerships for these buyer incentives. Also available: a one-time federal income tax deduction of $2000 for AT-PVEV vehicles purchased in 2004 and 2005.

Powered by a 2.3-liter, in-line four-cylinder gas engine rated at 133 hp, coupled with a 70-kilowatt electric engine generating 94 hp, the Escape offers up 153 hp. A gas engine Escape offers 200 hp, but most reviewers compared performance between the two models favorably.

Where the Hybrid shines is in stop-and-go city driving. Purely electric until it reaches 25 mph, the Hybrid can achieve up to 40 mpg in slow commute traffic. This is a top limit, and not a usual amount. Although Ford and the government claim that standard city driving will give you about 33 mpg, most reviewers reported mpg in the 26 to 30 mpg range.

Please note that this is an impressive figure for any SUV, and compounded with decreased emissions, it makes the Ford Escape Hybrid best in class for fuel economy and emissions control.

Ford Motor Co. plans to offer around 20,000 Escape Hybrids this year. Like other hybrid manufacturers, Ford has had to retool plants, retrain technicians, and invest in battery production, all of which limits manufacturing capacity. If anything breaks, the Hybrid must be serviced by one of Ford’s dealerships, which are trained to do the repairs.

Escape Hybrid components are covered for at least eight years and 100,000 miles, and a standard three year, 36,000 mile warranty covers the rest of the vehicle.

The Ford Escape Hybrid can bee seen at Grass Valley Ford, 800 S. Auburn St., in Grass Valley.


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