Ford Develops World's First Ethanol-Fueled Hybrid Marrying Two Gasoline-Saving Technologies
Washington, DC. 01/25/2006
At the Washington Auto Show, Ford unveiled the Ford Escape Hybrid E85, a research vehicle combining two petroleum-saving technologies - hybrid electric power and flexible-fuel capability.
It's a marriage made in gas-saving heaven. Ford Motor Company is a leader in ethanol-powered vehicles as well as a leader in hybrid technology so it's only natural that Ford would eventually marry the two technologies.
At the Washington Auto Show, Ford unveiled the Ford Escape Hybrid E85, a research vehicle combining two petroleum-saving technologies - hybrid electric power and flexible-fuel capability. Escape Hybrid E85 is a hybrid vehicle capable of operating on blends of fuel containing as much as 85 percent ethanol, a renewable fuel that can be produced from American-grown corn or sugar beets. And ethanol use releases no fossil-based CO 2, so its use as a fuel in place of gasoline reduces the release of greenhouse gases.
"As a leader in both hybrid vehicles and in vehicles capable of operating on ethanol-based fuels, Ford is the ideal company to bring both technologies together for the first time," says Anne Stevens, executive vice president, Ford Motor Company, and chief operating officer, The Americas.
"This innovative research program could lead to breakthroughs to significantly reduce our nation's dependence on imported oil while also helping to address global climate change," Stevens says. "Both the Escape Hybrid E85 and the ethanol fuel it runs on are made in America. This is another example of how Ford is driving American innovation."
Ford is the enviable position of being able to develop alternate fuel technologies because of its extensive history of research innovations.
"Ford has the right blend of expertise necessary to lead this research," says Gioia, director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies & Hybrid Programs. "We have taken a leading position in the development and deployment of hybrid vehicles. We also have put more than 1.5 million flex-fuel vehicles on America's roads in the last decade, and our experience with ethanol-fueled vehicles goes all the way back to the days of Henry Ford."
For example, the world's first hybrid SUV, the Ford Escape Hybrid, was introduced in 2004. Along with the new Mercury Mariner Hybrid, it is the most fuel-efficient small SUV available. No other American automaker today offers even one full hybrid vehicle.
Ford Motor Company will introduce several new hybrids in the coming years, including a Mazda Tribute Hybrid next year and hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan mid-size sedans in 2008. Next up, in the 2008 to 2010 time period, will be hybrid versions of the Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego full-size sedans, and the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers.
E85 is a fuel blend that contains 85 percent ethanol and only 15 percent gasoline. Ethanol is a completely renewable fuel that in the U.S. most commonly is made from corn. Gasoline sold in the U.S. frequently contains up to 10 percent ethanol, but an increasing number of vehicles on the road today can operate on blends containing up to 85 percent ethanol.
If just 5 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet were powered by hybrids operating exclusively on E85, imports of oil could be reduced by about 140 million barrels a year. Such a savings would increase U.S. energy security, improve the nation's balance of payments and support America 's agricultural economy.
Additionally, ethanol-fueled hybrids could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ford Escape Hybrid, already the world's most fuel-efficient small SUV, would produce about 25 percent less carbon dioxide if operated exclusively on renewable E85 ethanol fuel instead of carbon-rich gasoline.
Ford recently announced a project with VeraSun Energy Corporation to encourage the further availability of E85 fuel at retail filling stations. Today, E85 is most commonly available in parts of the Midwest.
The Ford Escape Hybrid E85 research project will aim for breakthroughs that could further expand the appeal of ethanol-capable vehicles.
"Ford researchers are applying some of the best expertise in the industry in hybrid power controls, flexible fuel operation and exhaust after-treatment," Gioia said. "We're working on the whole system, from the fuel tank through to the tailpipe, to optimize fuel efficiency and lower emissions."
Although Ford engineers have achieved very low tailpipe emissions with flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs), evaporative emissions remain a challenge. Some blends of ethanol are much more volatile than gasoline, so a more aggressive evaporative system is necessary. A full hybrid application presents additional evaporative challenges, because the vehicle often operates on electric power alone without actuating the evaporative vacuum system that operates when the gasoline engine is in use.
Ford engineers are pursuing a number of strategies to address this challenge with the goal of achieving partial zero-emissions vehicle (PZEV) status. No FFV has yet been certified to this extremely clean standard, because of the evaporative requirement in the PZEV standard.
"We are seeking innovations to eliminate the release of fuel vapors from the vehicle," says Gioia. "We're working to further improve the efficiency of our systems that trap and consume fuel vapors while also working on ideas to prevent the generation of vapor in the first place."
Ford researchers also hope to apply a number of proprietary engine technologies being developed for future application that could further increase the fuel economy performance of a hybrid FFV.
Further expanding the popularity of both hybrids and the use of ethanol-based fuels would significantly reduce American oil imports and greenhouse gas emissions until the day when hydrogen becomes widely used as a fuel for internal combustion engines or as a source of electric power produced by hydrogen fuel cells.
"Hydrogen holds the ultimate long-term promise for clean and sustainable power," Gioia says. "In the meantime, both hybrids and ethanol-fueled vehicles can significantly lessen U.S. dependence on imported oil while reducing the impact on our global environment. The Escape Hybrid E85 program could lead to the breakthroughs needed to marry these two important technologies in production vehicles."