When it comes to gasoline-electric hybrid cars, Toyota is way ahead of rivals.
The Japanese automaker’s Prius essentially created this vehicle segment when introduced in the mid-1990s. Over the years, lessons learned from this nameplate have enabled Toyota to offer a sprawling range of hybrid models, from the Avalon sedan and RAV4 crossover to the Camry, Highlander and Corolla. Even its Lexus luxury division proffers an array of gasoline-electric models including the RX crossover, LS flagship sedan, and even the LC luxury coupe.
But just because it’s in a leadership position doesn’t mean Toyota is the only game in town. Other car companies have made significant investments in hybrid technology, including Ford.
Way back in model-year 2005, Dearborn debuted the world’s first gasoline-electric utility vehicle. At the time, their Escape Hybrid was groundbreaking, with front-wheel-drive models stickering at 29 miles per gallon combined according to the U.S. EPA. Not only efficient, this vehicle also proved to be surprisingly robust. The automaker recently purchased a used 2012 model from a New York City taxi company, one with in-excess of 400,000 miles on the odometer. Supposedly, this example still has the original engine, transmission and hybrid battery pack.
Pushing the original Escape Hybrid’s technology even further, Ford later introduced hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Fusion sedan and C-Max.
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Moving forward, the Blue Oval is continuing to focus on electrification. By the year 2022, they’re on track to have invested some $11-billion in related technologies. Underscoring this point, they’ve been granted around 1,300 patents in the last three years, have an additional 2,500 or so that are active plus some 4,300 pending.
“We’re going to be aggressively chasing the space of hybrids,” said Dave Filipe, vice president of powertrain engineering at Ford. Soon, gasoline-electric propulsion systems will be a cornerstone of this automaker’s drivetrain lineup, much like downsized, turbocharged engines are today. For context, some 70 percent of F-150 trucks sold are powered by EcoBoost engines. Additionally, Filipe noted the automaker will eventually offer hybrid and all-electric versions of this perennially popular pickup.
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Launching shortly will be a pair of fourth-generation hybrid systems. Ford is taking a two-pronged approach going forward, offering one gasoline-electric drivetrain family for smaller, less capable vehicles and a larger arrangement for bigger models that can tow and haul greater loads.