While he's not Rodney Dangerfield, Gil Portalatin doesn't always "get respect." He's hybrid system application manager for Ford, and at a press conference to introduce Ford's hybrid Fusion and Mercury Milan (2010 models available in the first quarter next year) at last week's New England International Auto Show in Boston, he seemed exasperated that the same questions keep popping up: "Do you use Toyota's system in your hybrids? Aren't you guys using Toyota's hybrid system under license?"
The answer was an emphatic, "No!" While both Ford and Toyota's hybrids can run on electric power only, he noted the actual hybrid architectures are different. Plus Ford has developed new nickel metal-hydride battery technology and electric motors for its hybrid power train.
The battery has "new cell chemistry" that provides 20% more energy density than current NiMH batteries. The net result is a battery pack that has 208 versus 250 cells, weighs 135 lb (145 lb less than previous packs), and takes up only 30% the volume of current batteries. (A look in the Fusion trunk, with the trim removed showed the pack stows neatly behind the rear seat rather than taking up extensive space below the trunk.) The cells can also run hotter, and thus need only to use cooling from cabin air rather than a separate vent system as seen on previous hybrid sedans.
Portalatin said the electric traction motors for the Ford hybrids have been downsized for city traffic requirements, making them lighter to further save fuel. But acceleration is available when needed thanks to a "variable voltage control" that can boost motor output, much like a turbocharger.
The above improvements and control algorithms allow the Fusion and Milan Hybrids to operate in electric mode at up to 47 mph under certain city driving conditions. Range is expected to be 700 miles (city) on a tank of gas. While official EPA mileage numbers are not yet available (along with pricing for the Ford hybrids) they are expected to be "at least" 39 mpg city and 37 mpg highwayand should have "5 mpg more" than its Toyota hybrid Camry competitor.
Other advanced technology on the Fusion and Milan include: An enhanced electronic throttle control to reduce airflow on engine shutdowns, which reduces fuel need on restarts.
Regenerative braking that captures almost 94% of energy by first delivering full regenerative braking followed by friction brakes during city driving.
SmartGauge with EcoGuide in the instrument cluster, which features two, high-resolution, full-color LCD screens that can be configured to show different levels of information, including fuel and battery power levels, and average and instant miles-per-gallon in various modes to "teach" a driver fuel-saving driving techniques.