* Ford spokesman Kermit the Frog helps educate consumers in Chicago and across the country about the benefits of the Ford Escape Hybrid.
Ford will launch the beginnings of a "Midwest Ethanol Corridor" -- expanding E85 ethanol fuel availability by about one-third throughout the states of Illinois and Missouri this year through the company's ongoing partnership with VeraSun Energy, a renewable energy company. Actions to increase the availability of ethanol in neighboring states are planned, as well.
Ford also announced that it is working with the city of Chicago to put hybrid vehicles into service as taxi cabs beginning in 2007, as part of a plan being considered today by the Chicago City Council. Ford is loaning the city an Escape Hybrid to serve as a training and education tool with taxi fleets and the public. The Ford Escape Hybrid will help taxi companies reduce fuel expenses while helping to improve the air quality in the city.
"Ford is advancing innovative solutions to customer concerns over high gas prices and America's overdependence on foreign oil," says Bill Ford, Ford Motor Company chairman and CEO. "Ethanol is an innovative energy source straight from the heartland of America."
E85 ethanol is a fuel blend that contains 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Ethanol is a completely renewable fuel that, in the U.S., is most commonly made from corn. Gasoline sold in the U.S. frequently contains up to 10 percent ethanol, but an increasing number of vehicles on the road today can operate on blends containing up to 85 percent ethanol. To date, approximately 500 of the more than 180,000 fuel stations in the United States currently offer E85 ethanol.
Midwest Ethanol Corridor
The first phase in the creation of the Midwest ethanol corridor is to convert approximately 40 existing gasoline fuel pumps in Illinois and Missouri to E85. The move will increase availability by approximately one-third this year. Ford estimates there are 50,000 owners of Ford flexible fuel vehicles (FFV) in Illinois and 28,000 in Missouri. Ford will work with fuel providers and officials in other states to further develop the Midwest ethanol corridor.
"With its commitment to ethanol and E85, Ford is showing the kind of renewable energy vision that Illinois and America need," said Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. "With the Illinois Clean Energy Infrastructure Program, we have increased the number of E85 stations in Illinois from 14 to about 100. Ford's commitment today will help us continue to expand E85 infrastructure and make this cost-effective and clean fuel more widely available to consumers in Illinois."
Missouri Governor Matt Blunt also supports the ethanol initiative.
"I commend Ford Motor Company for exceptional foresight on this innovative ethanol project, and I am delighted that the state of Missouri will be playing an integral role. This corridor project will complement the success we've had in making ethanol growth and research a priority, and it will create job opportunities for Missouri families."
Ford has produced flexible fuel vehicles for more than a decade, with more than 1.6 million on the road.
With the introduction of four new 2006 models that have the E85 option - including the Ford F-150 pickup, Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car - the company will produce up to 250,000 ethanol-capable vehicles in 2006.
"Ford has been putting flexible fuel vehicles on the road for years, but the ethanol fueling infrastructure has not kept pace," said Anne Stevens, executive vice president, Ford Motor Company, and chief operating officer, The Americas. "For energy diversity to be a reality for our customers, there must be a growing infrastructure that is convenient for them.
"We are working to achieve this reality," she added. "Our focus is on infrastructure and to encourage retail fuel providers to incorporate E85 fuel options in their operations."
Hybrid Taxis Coming to Chicago
Chicago taxi drivers and their customers will soon come to appreciate the efficient beauty of the Ford Escape Hybrid. Ford's work with the city of Chicago will pave the way to hybrid taxi vehicles in the future.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley applauds the move.
"Our new taxicab ordinance encourages cab companies to add hybrid vehicles, which conserve energy, save money and help the environment," said Daley. "Ford has been an important part of Chicago's economy for many years, and I welcome their participation in this program."
Ford Escape Hybrid taxis are already in service in New York City and San Francisco. The hybrid taxis contribute to improved air quality and provide substantial gas savings for the taxi companies.
As a Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV), Ford Escape Hybrid operates with ultra-clean emissions. The vehicle's fuel economy in stop-and-go city driving also is 80 percent higher than a conventional Escape. In fact, the two-wheel-drive version of the hybrid SUV achieves 36 miles per gallon in city driving and up to 500 miles or more on a single tank of gas - even in gridlock traffic jams.
Many Ford hybrid taxis in San Francisco now have more than 100,000 miles. Some drivers say they're saving $50 to $75 per week by driving an Escape Hybrid. In New York, Taxi and Limousine Commission officials are estimating the annual fuel savings for each driver will amount to tens of thousands of dollars every year.
Ford Developing New Hybrid Models
Ford introduced the Escape Hybrid in 2004. It is the world's first hybrid SUV and the first hybrid from an American automaker. No other American automaker today offers even one full hybrid vehicle.
Along with the new Mercury Mariner Hybrid, the two hybrids remains the cleanest and most fuel-efficient small SUVs available anywhere.
Ford Motor Company is expanding its future commitment to hybrids - with plans to build 250,000 hybrid vehicles a year by 2010 and half of the Ford, Mercury and Lincoln lineup available as hybrids. Ford plans to introduce several new hybrids in the coming years, including a Mazda Tribute Hybrid up next. Hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan midsize sedans will arrive in 2008.
The company recently said it will offer hybrid versions of the Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego full-size sedans, and the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers by the end of the decade.
Consumer Awareness for Hybrids
Ford kicked off a new integrated marketing campaign at Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5 with a commercial featuring Kermit the Frog. The campaign - which will consist of television, print, digital and outdoor advertising - showcases Ford's commitment to technologies, like hybrids, that reduce air pollution and save families money at the pump.
The new ad featuring Kermit will appear throughout the year, including on such hit shows as American Idol (Fox), CSI: Miami (CBS) and the Barbara Walters Academy Awards Special (ABC). Print ads will appear in influential automotive-enthusiast magazines, business publications and newsweeklies. Digital advertising will appear on ESPN, MSN, America Online and the Washington Post.
Consumer Awareness: Ethanol
Ford and VeraSun said they are working together to increase consumer awareness of ethanol, particularly in the Midwest. The companies are investigating ways to inform owners of flexible fuel vehicles about the benefits of ethanol as well as where they can find E85 in local markets.