Ford debuts 2020 Escape PHEV

Ford took the virtual covers off its new Escape plug-in hybrid, which get a class-leading 100 MPGe.

Ford brought back the hybrid powertrain with the launch of its latest-generation Escape small ute and, now, it’s adding a plug-in hybrid version, as well.

The numbers are impressive, including its EPA-rated 100 MPGe and an all-electric range of 37 miles per charge. That solidly bests the Toyota RAV4 Prime on fuel economy – though Ford’s compact SUV lags behind on both range and performance.

“The original Ford Escape was the world’s first hybrid SUV and the all-new Ford Escape plug-in hybrid represents how far we’ve come in technology and efficiency,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development and purchasing officer.

(Ford unveils 2020 Escape.)

Ford was an early entrant in electrification, though its first-generation offerings didn’t generate much in the way of sales. There were a variety of reasons, according to industry analysts, including the fact that the Fusion Energi PHEV managed a mere 26 miles of all-electric driving range before having to fire up its internal combustion engine.

The new Escape PHEV travels 37 miles on a charge, which lags the Toyota RAV4 Prime by 2 miles.

The Ford Escape PHEV, meanwhile, rides the crest of the wave as Americans by the millions continuing switching from sedans and coupes to SUVs and CUVs.

As for the basic specs on the 2020 Ford Escape PHEV:

  • Power comes from a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle inline-four gas engine paired with a single electric motor;
  • Power is directed to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission;
  • The electric motor draws power from a 14.4 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery;
  • The EPA rates the plug-in at 100 MPGe, while it yields 41 mpg in gas-only mode;
  • Charging takes as little as 3.3 hours using a 240-volt Level 2 charger, or 10-11 hours on a 120-volt circuit. The Escape PHEV cannot use newer quick-chargers, however.

With an EPA-rated 100 MPGe, or miles per gallon-equivalent, the Escape plug-in has the best fuel efficiency yet of any Ford model, and beats the Toyota RAV4 Prime by 6 MPGe, the automaker noted. That said, the Japanese plug-in manages to get 39 miles per charge with the 2021 edition.

And where the Escape PHEV makes a moderate 165 horsepower through its front wheels, the Toyota RAV4 Prime bumps that to 302 horsepower which it sends to all four wheels.

(First Drive: 2020 Ford Escape SE Sport Hybrid.)

The arrival of the Japanese plug-in marked a significant shift in strategy for Toyota which is putting an emphasis on performance, as well as fuel efficiency, with its Prime series of PHEVs.

It’s great on gas, offers four-wheel drive and, like most utes, has a plenty of room for cargo.

Ford is taking a similar approach with its Lincoln Aviator plug-in, the most powerful version of that SUV it offers. But it has decided to emphasize fuel economy and range with both the Escape PHEV and the plug-in version of the Lincoln Corsair.

All three products are part of the Detroit automaker’s $11.5 billion bet on electrification. During the next several years, Ford plans to roll out a broad mix of hybrids, PHEVs and pure battery-electric vehicles, the latter group starting with the launch of the all-new Mustang Mach-E set to reach showrooms later this year.

The 2020 Ford Escape PHEV will start at “under $35,000,” Ford said, including delivery charges, but options will push that closer to $40,000. The base version of the Escape starts around $27,000. A standard hybrid with front-drive comes up around $30,500 with delivery included.

How well Ford will do with the Escape PHEV is uncertain. The all-electric range and improved fuel economy clearly comes at a cost – though buyers potentially will qualify for tax credits of as much as around $6,600. But demand for plug-ins has been modest, at best, in the U.S. despite the rising number of options and improvements in range.

Compounding the challenges facing Ford and other manufacturers is the plunge in fuel prices this year. But costs are beginning to go up as most states end their coronavirus lockdowns. According to GasBuddy.com, the average price of self-serve regular was around $2.02 a gallon on Monday morning. That’s 73 cents less than a year ago – but up nearly 20 cents in the past month.

(Ford preparing off-road version of its all-new Escape SUV.)

Ford could score better in Europe where there’s a big push to electrify. The Escape PHEV, with minor regional changes, will be sold there as the Ford Kuga.

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