The race for the most fuel efficient hybrid family sedan heats up.
Ford and Toyota are involved in the automotive equivalent of a poker game. That game involves its midsize family sedans, the Toyota Camry and the Ford Fusion. Not the gasoline-powered models, rather the sedans that employ gas-electric hybrid technology.
Hybrid v. Hybrid
The Toyota Camry Hybrid came to the market first and immediately built on the success of the smaller Toyota Prius. The Camry Hybrid isn’t the only midsize hybrid sedan on the market, but it is the one of the few successful ones. However, beginning with the 2010 model year, the Ford Fusion Hybrid appeared and immediately blew past the Camry’s 33 mpg city, 34 mpg highway fuel economy rating, delivering an EPA-rated 41 mpg city, 36 mpg highway.
Toyota, of course, wasn’t about to cede anything to Ford, at least not for long. Two years later, with the introduction of the next generation Camry, the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is now rated at 43 mpg city, 39 mpg highway. The Fusion Hybrid’s numbers haven’t changed, thus Toyota’s midsize sedan has moved back into first place.
2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Ford, however, insists that the next generation Fusion Hybrid will once again top the Camry Hybrid. Ford has been hinting that it will resume leadership in the family sedan hybrid segment when the hybrid version of its Fusion goes on sale this fall. That model (pictured) is expected to deliver 47 mpg city, 44 mpg highway if Ford’s projections are accurate.
How is Ford able to move ahead of Toyota? By continuously improving upon its technology. Specifically, Ford has been investing in new technologies to help the Fusion Hybrid toward its loftier goals and now holds nearly 500 patents on hybrid components including its innovative powersplit architecture system which is being used by the Fusion Hybrid and the plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi. An in-house inventor, Ming Kuang, has been leading the effort for Ford and 40 of the 461 patents that fall under the hybrid category have his name on them.
Kuang, who is a committed environmentalist, explained his desire to provide a cleaner world through advanced technologies, “The work on the Fusion Hybrid is all about a commitment I made a long time ago to have a positive effect on our environment. It’s about helping make the world my children live in – and the world my children’s children will live in – a better place.”
Improved Hybrid Technologies
One of the patents covers the display system for the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid that shows how efficiently the power of the car is being used. That model, schedule to roll out late this year, is projected to achieve a better MPG equivalent in electric mode than Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid. Some estimates offered by Ford has that model delivering the equivalent of 100 MPGe, a number that approaches what the Nissan LEAF delivers.
Improved hybrid technologies is making the case for electric vehicles harder to defend. Although hybrids are more expensive than equivalent gasoline models, vehicles like the Fusion Hybrid and Camry Hybrid are showing us that the extra cost of these models can be recouped faster. With gas approaching $4 per gallon once again and the Obama administration considering boosting the EV tax credit from $7,500 to $10,000, policy makers may find that hybrids offer a more practical solution to helping America reduce its dependency on foreign sources of oil.
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Photo: Ford Motor Company