Ford says the Escape Hybrid is the cleanest SUV on the road and tops the EPA’s 2005 Fuel Economy Guide as the most fuel-efficient light truck or SUV. “Being selected as North American Truck of the Year is a great accomplishment for the world’s first full-hybrid SUV,” said Ford Division President Steve Lyons.
Nearly every automotive media outlet nowadays presents product awards, but the North American Truck of the Year award differs in that it is voted upon by journalists who have no ties to one another. For this reason the award is considered one of
the most prestigious in North America.
To be eligible, vehicles must be “all new” or “substantially changed” from the previous model. Sales must be projected to exceed 5,000 a year. To determine the winner, the jurors vote on a secret ballot for trucks, SUVs and crossover-type vehicle that set new class standards for innovation, value, safety, ride and handling. The 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid received top honors among 12 eligible trucks.
Each juror was given 25 points to divide among the eligible vehicles. No more than 10 points could be given to a single vehicle. That means the most points a vehicle could get for 2005 would be 480. The journalists are instructed to compare the models they vote for against comparable models in the marketplace, so the Ford Escape Hybrid isn’t measured against the Ford Super Duty pickup, for example.
This is the second year in a row that a hybrid vehicle has been honored by the group. Last year the Toyota Prius was the North American Car of the Year. A hybrid uses an electric motor to boost or temporarily replace a conventional engine, resulting in reduced emissions and better fuel economy.
Because it’s a full hybrid, Escape Hybrid is able to run on either its gasoline engine or on its electric motor depending on driving conditions. It can drive exclusively in electric mode during slower speeds and does not need to engage the internal combustion engine as long as there is enough power stored in the battery. In addition, the full-hybrid system incorporates regenerative braking technology, which funnels energy generated from the brakes into the battery and stores it for use later on.
Substantially improved fuel efficiency is only part of the story. Escape Hybrid also is an extremely clean vehicle to operate, producing 97 percent less hydrocarbon and oxides of nitrogen emissions than vehicles that meet today’s nationwide Tier I emissions standard. That’s clean enough to qualify the 2005 Escape Hybrid for the stringent Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) standards.
“The Ford Escape Hybrid offers seamless and responsive power in a practical package,” said John Harter of WJLA-TV. “Its environmentally friendly power source sets a standard for trucks.”
“The 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid means consumers with some extra disposable income can help the environment without having to sacrifice either performance or practicality,” wrote Chris Jensen of the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.
Each year since 1994 the jury of automotive journalists honors a new car and a new truck. Early in December the journalists voted on 12 new trucks. The ballots were sent to the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche in Detroit.
The awards are funded by dues paid by jurors and are administered by a seven-person organizing committee. For 2005 the members of that committee are Tony Swan (Car and Driver); John McElroy (Autoline Detroit); John Davis (MotorWeek); Don Chaikin (Popular Mechanics); Alex Law (Freelance); Christopher Jensen (The Plain Dealer); and Mitch McCullough (New Car Test Drive).