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Page 1: Intro
For years, automakers have been foisting hybrid vehicles on a relatively underwhelmed American public. They save gasoline, sure. They help you breathe easier, okay. But they don't go really fast or make a lot of noise. And it's hard to pack a troop of kids into the back of these little eco-friendly tuna cans. Save 'em for Green Peace. We don't need hybrids in Suburbia. Pollution is someone else's problem.
Right. And wrong. Pollution is actually our problem, but it's hard to justify going against market realities of the day. Americans want more, and bigger versions of it. So while maybe, on principle, we ought to look into compromising a little horsepower and space so we can help make tomorrow a better place, the facts are plain: we aren't likely to turn in our SUVs for compacts. Now, if an enterprising automaker were to serve up pollution-free commuting in an SUV size, well - maybe this hybrid business has a future after all. It does. And it is as bright as the smog-free sun. Two automakers, Ford and Toyota, have announced concrete plans to sell hybrid SUVs. On the heels of Ford's '04 summer launch of the Escape SUV hybrid, and the Lexus RX400h, will come the Highlander Hybrid, and what we have as a result is a full-bore trend in the making - and a promising sign that the future will include lower reliance on fossil fuel. From Global Warming to Geopolitics and the price at the pump, this is good news for everyone.
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Page 2: Ford Escape
Ford is leading the way with hybrid power in an SUV. That's right - Ford. Father of the Cobra. The Marauder. The GT. The Crown Vic. Executives at Ford have been talking about this day with great anticipation since 2001 - and, finally, the day is getting close to reality.
When it happens, it will be viewed by many as a major coup: Ford will grab the "practical hybrid" mantle from Toyota and claim it as a domestic prize. Ford calls the Escape a "no-compromise" hybrid SUV, and has plans to deliver between 35 and 40 mpg in the city, and deliver the attributes of the base Escape.
Like Toyota's Prius, the Escape Hybrid is a full hybrid, able to run on either its gasoline engine and/or the electric motor depending on which delivers the most efficient fuel performance.
The Escape will be available in front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations. Acceleration will not be compromised, according to Ford, and cargo capacity will remain the same as the standard Escape. According to Angela Coletti, Ford spokesperson for the Escape hybrid, the vehicle will deliver V6 acceleration performance. The Escape hybrid is what she terms a "no compromise" vehicle, able to function on-road, off or in a typical towing scenario.
Emissions ratings are targeted to be SULEV and PZEV, which translates into virtually zero emissions. Ford has plans to be active after the Escape hybrid hits the street: up next for the blue oval may be a Futura hybrid sedan. The Futura is a new sedan scheduled to be introduced in 2005 as a 2006 model; no date has been set for a hybrid version.
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Page 3: Highlander
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Page 4: Lexus RX400h
The RX400h will also be the first vehicle to have the upgraded Vehicle Dynamic Management (VDM) system, an improved vehicle control system that will anticipate the onset of a skid or slide. Lexus estimates that the RX400h will generate about 270 horsepower, and that the EPA emissions rating will be SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle). The design of the RX400h will be very similar to the RX330, except for brushed aluminum interior highlights and a slightly styled nose. According to Clements, the RX400h should comprise 20% of the RX330 market. "We'll let the market decide," said Clements "But we know that dealers have already taken a huge number of orders for the RX400h."
The critical component to hybrid success remains price. If pricing is competitive with traditional internal combustion engines, popularity is likely assured. Even if there is a greater-than-the-tax-credit discrepancy in price, the profile for hybrids should still be raised; the hybrid choice will become a natural part of the car-buying process.
That itself is a big step. From two-seaters to SUVs, it's been a long time coming, but it looks like hybrid vehicle power has finally made it home.
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Page 5: Hybrid FAQs
Braking is a little different, as hybrid systems regenerate energy through the braking systems.
Is it true that hybrid vehicles 'turn off' when the vehicle is at a red light?
Yes and no. The gas engine stops running, which is a primary reason why hybrid systems save fuel and limit emissions. When you step on the accelerator, however, the electric generator instantly starts the engine.
Will they ever build a hybrid sports car?
Quite possibly, if they can improve acceleration performance with a hybrid system. There really seems to be little reason why they would build one, however, as lowering fuel costs is not a top priority for these enthusisats.Do you think they will build hybrid trucks?Yes. In fact, hybrid technology is ideally suited for larger vehicles. Chevrolet currently has plans to introduce a Silverado and Tahoe hybrid version in the near future.
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Page 6: Writer's Notes
2005 Ford Escape Hybrid, 2005 Lexus RX400h, 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The best version is… all should be pretty well refined. Automakers know well that hybrid vehicles must very dependable; Toyota and Ford have spent millions in the fevelopment of these systems.
Before you buy it… Ask yourself what you need. If you spend alot of time locked down in traffic or doing errands, a hybrid system will save time and money, with fewer trips to the pump.
Best thing about SUV hybrids… Fuel economy, space, convenience...with the appropriate safety equipment, these could be the vehicles that offer everything.
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