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Ford Car Gets Twice Gas Mileage

September 19, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. is delivering a full-size family car to the U.S. Energy Department next month that gets about 60 mpg _ twice the gas mileage of a typical car.

Government officials are calling the step a milestone in joint government-industry attempts to find technologies to achieve a mass-produced, family car that gets far greater fuel efficiency than today’s family cars.

The Ford car, called the P2000 LSR, has a hybrid diesel-electric engine system and can easily be refueled and driven daily. It has the passenger room, trunk space and driving acceleration of a Taurus. But it is made mostly of aluminum and other lightweight materials, making it 40 percent lighter than the Taurus, or about 2,000 pounds in weight, Ford engineers said.

Ford will turn over the keys to the car in October, company officials said. Other automakers are working on similar fuel-efficient hybrid cars or have produced working models. But Ford is the first automaker to give the Energy Department such a hybrid family car that can be driven daily and that they can test.

``What’s significant is that we have a full-size family sedan that gets double the mileage of today’s typical automobile and is a practical car for today’s needs,″ said Dan Reicher, the Energy Department’s assistant secretary of the office of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Unlike other future cars being developed, such as those using hydrogen fuel cells, the diesel-electric hybrid can be refueled at a gas station.

Toyota already has a hybrid gas-electric vehicle on the road in Japan, called the Prius. The four-seat compact car gets 66 mpg, and Toyota expects to introduce it into the U.S. market next year.

Although Energy Department officials are excited about other high-mileage hybrids as well, they say the Ford P2000 LSR is different because it aims for the mass market with a full-size car that seats five people.

``All the knowledge we have developed in this hybrid program is definitely going very heavily toward supporting product development″ for the mass market, said Mike Tamor, Ford’s project leader of hybrid electric vehicle design.

``This is not some sort of high-expense low-volume small vehicle we’re working on. We want to hit the mainstream of the market with a family sedan. That’s a little bit of a tougher order,″ Tamor said.

Ford and General Motors Corp. have said they do not plan to have a hybrid car in production until the next century. One hurdle left is making sure a mass-marketed, fuel-efficient family car is about as affordable as today’s cars.

``In order to be out there in large numbers, it has to be at a price that the customers are willing to pay,″ Tamor said.

Ford is delivering the car under the Hybrid Propulsion Systems Development Program, a joint program with the Energy Department that domestic automakers undertook to double the fuel economy of a mid-size sedan in city driving to around 50 mpg, Energy officials said.

The department has since set its sights on an even bigger goal of a family car that gets 80 mpg, a program known as the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. But Reicher calls the 60 mpg car ``a major step″ toward that goal, demonstrating practical technologies that can be used in mainstream cars in the coming years.

The Ford hybrid power system involves a small diesel engine that does most of the low-speed driving while an electric battery is used to help with climbing hills and sudden acceleration. The battery also recaptures about half of the energy used in braking.

To conserve even more power, the engine turns off while the car is idling at traffic lights. When a driver steps on the gas pedal, the car restarts in less than a third of a second, or about the blink of an eye, Tamor said.

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