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Second chance - From gas-guzzler to now green giant, Ford is transforming its image in the USA with its all-new hybrid technology
Already the largest producer of hybrid vehicles in the USA – and second only to Toyota in the global stakes – Ford has introduced a new two-mode hybrid powertrain that will debut in the all-new 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans. Rated by the EPA at 41mpg in city mode and 39mpg in highway mode, it is 8mpg better than the Toyota Camry hybrid with which it directly competes, and 6mpg better than the smaller Honda Civic hybrid. According to Ford, the system can drive at 47mph on electric power, and has a tank range of 700 miles.
The new Ford hybrid system features a much-improved 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine with variable intake cam timing, which has 22bhp more than the previous 2.3-liter engine, and much greater stop/start capacity.
The engine is connected to an electronic CVT with a variable-voltage converter unit that is 130% higher in motor output and 16% higher in generator output. The VVC decouples battery voltage from the transmission for higher efficiency and all-round better performance.
Ford’s high-voltage to low-voltage DC/DC converter is brand new, with 14% more power, 27% less volume, and 42% less weight than the previous design used on Ford and Mercury small SUVs. The company also says it has improved diagnostics and better load management controls.
The system’s new traction battery pack, supplied by Delphi and using Sanyo battery cells, has 20% more power per cell, makes use of 17% fewer cells, is lighter by 23%, and is smaller in volume by 30%. It is also cooled by a fan system using cabin air rather than its own air-conditioning system. Whereas the previous setup used 250 NiMH D cells, the new one uses 208, and voltage has been reduced from 330V to 275V at the same 5.5 amp/hours, with power increased to 186W. The old system weighed 87kg, but the new one tips the scales at 66kg, enabling a new location behind the rear seat rather than the old system’s floor mounting.
The regenerative braking used in Fusion and Milan has been reinvented to provide similar pedal feel to hydraulic power brakes, and can capture 94% of the energy normally lost in braking. The independent electric air-con system has been upgraded to provide better low-temperature performance.
The system’s crowning achievement, other than fuel economy, is a totally new SmartGauge hybrid display developed by Ford with Sony. It is a system that has four levels of engagement with the driver, four levels of information display, and excellent graphics that further encourages economical driving habits. The two hybrids will be available in the USA by the start of the third quarter of this year, with a price of around US$28,000.