Hybrid Lovers: There's No Escape From Statistics

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
hybrid lovers there s no escape from statistics

USA Toda y is in the thrall of . . . the Ford Escape Hybrid. As is the President of these here United States, who traded his gas-hungry Chrysler 300C for the gas – electric trucklette. No surprise, then, that we’ve heard rumors of shortages. Well, not rumors, exactly. More like an open admission by FoMoCo’s El Presidente del Americas. “We are constrained by the amount of components, including batteries, that the supply base can provide us,” Mark Fields said in December ’08. Same spin again in January ’09, via a Blue Oval Boy on Edmunds. The scuttlebutt: Ford loses money on every Escape Hybrid they sell; so it sells as few as possible. Of course, that doesn’t stop The Glass House Gang from using the vehicle to earn brownie points with the MSM . . .

Los Angeles County has 45 Ford Escape hybrid SUVs for its lifeguards — you know, the ones ofBaywatch fame. With a little help from some of the Escapes, they made 9,000 rescues over the past year. In the process, the hybrids cut the fleet’s fuel usage by 25%. That amounts to more than 5,000 gallons during the first six months of service, Ford says.

Impressive. But, once again, the Detroit automaker is touting relative vs. absolute gains. So, let’s have a closer look.

The SUVs replaced what had been mostly a fleet of Nissan Frontier pickups. The $29,645 Escapes accomplished the gas savings even as lifeguards drove 20% more due to higher beach attendance this year compared with last year. Escape hybrids have fuel economy of 29 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. The SUVs also cut carbon emissions that figure in global warming.

To see this in perspective (i.e., over-think it), we need to compare the Nissan Frontier 4 X 4 to the Ford Escape Hybrid 4 X 4 (drivetrain betrayed by the EPA stats).

Problem: we don’t know how many Nissan Frontiers were in the Baywatch fleet before the Escapes escaped Ford’s funnel. An old Tahoe here and there could seriously skew the stats.

More importantly, which engine motivated their Nissan trucks: the QR25DE 2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder (19/23) or the VQ40DE 4.0-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 (14/19)?

Assuming it’s a battle on all fours, the Escape Hybrid’s gas – electric mill and the Nissan Frontier’s four pot stump-up virtually identical horsepower (153 hp vs. 152 hp). But we’re torquing 136 lb·ft @ 4,500 vs. 171 lb·ft @ 4,400 rpm, respectively. That’s a lot more twist even if we’re not comparing the Ford Escape Hybrid’s gas – electric mill to the Frontier’s V6 (261 hp @ 5,600 rpm and 281 lb·ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm).

Which brings up another important variable: size. The Escape is a far less thirsty, lighter vehicle than the four cylinder Frontier (3804 lbs. vs. 4147 lbs. curb weight). But the Nissan is a much larger, more capacious, work-friendly vehicle. It’s a pickup truck, dontcha know.

To compare apples to apples, I reckon the Nisan Rogue is the best Ford Escape equivalent; Nissan’s mini-CUV’s wheelbase is just 2″ longer. The four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive Rogue gets 21/26 EPA mpg. FYI.

Which leaves us where? I dunno really. But simply regurgitating Ford press releases doesn’t reflect any glory upon USA Today, or tell consumers what they really want to know: what’s in it for me? Until and unless Ford can get Escape Hybrids into dealerships in any number, nothing.

Join the conversation
2 of 81 comments
  • Long126mike Long126mike on Jun 08, 2009
    I don’t respond to insults. That entire comment you made was loaded with insults and I haven't insulted you once. So what you're doing is projecting your own shortcomings and not actually addressing the fact that your assertion about resale differentials have no basis in reality. A sad, but all too common approach favored by someone whose argument is not holding up.

  • Bomber991 Bomber991 on Jun 09, 2009

    Hold on now, you can't just say hypermiling is unrealistic and unsafe. You must realize that there are different levels of hypermiling. For example, maintaining proper tire pressure and just maintaining your vehicle in general helps get the mpg's up, and that's not unsafe. Things like not accelerating towards a light that's red, that's not unsafe. Things like maintaining a proper distance between yourself and the car infront of you so that you don't have to slam on the brakes when they slow down a little bit, that's not unsafe. Not flooring your car every time you get the chance to. Speeding? Well there is staying with the flow of traffic and then there is speeding, and everyone knows the difference. Things like drafting, duh of course that's unsafe but real hypermilers don't condone that kind of behavior. Rolling through stopsigns, again same thing, hypermilers don't condone it. But hey, that's something a lot of people do anyway just to save time. Turning off the car while it's in motion or at a stop, well that doesn't even apply to the fusion hybrid since it will do that automatically for you.

  • FreedMike I don't know why this dash shocks anyone - the whole "touchscreen uber alles" thing is pure Tesla.
  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.