Ford Could Do A Lot More With The Escape PHEV, Should Offer A More Affordable EV

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In a recent press release, Ford told us about the new options available for the 2023 Ford Escape. Among them is still a plug-in hybrid option, along with a new ST line with some new aesthetic features. But, there are some notable things missing that keep the PHEV from being a great option for many buyers, and for the price, one of Ford’s competitors is proving that an EV is at least possible.

Before I get into the specifics of what I think is missing, we need to first review what was in the press release so readers can know what Ford is doing with the 2023 Escape.

The 2023 Escape’s Options

Ford says it has completely updated the compact SUV, adding features such as a new ST-Line series, cloud-connected SYNC 4 Technology, and advanced driver-assistance system technologies. Other popular features that have carried over include a sliding second-row seat with more second-row legroom than the Toyota Sequoia and hybrid and plug-in hybrid engine choices.

“The new Escape is the perfect getaway vehicle,” said brand manager Adrienne Zaski. “From large touchscreens that can wirelessly display Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ while your phone stays in your pocket to a sliding second row that offers more legroom, it makes everyday adventures easy to handle – from meetings on the fly, to coffee runs with friends, or even a power nap in the back seat.”

There are three engine options for the ST-Line: a 1.5-liter EcoBoost targeting 180 hp with front- or all-wheel drive, a 2.0-liter EcoBoost targeting 250 hp with all-wheel drive, and a hybrid option with front-wheel drive. The ST-Line models have a black mesh grille, rear skid plate, and large spoiler that set them apart from the competition. The entire vehicle is monochromatically painted for a refined look, and the well-equipped ST-Line Elite model includes an available “coast to coast” LED light bar that stretches across the width of the headlights.

There are four different models in the Escape lineup: Base, Active, Platinum, and Plug-in Hybrid. The Base and Active models come with a 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine and front-wheel or all-wheel drive options. The Platinum model comes with a 2.0 liter EcoBoost engine and all-wheel drive, as well as a hybrid powertrain option with either front- or all-wheel drive.

The 2023 Ford Escape SUV lineup targets an EPA-estimated range of at least 400 miles per tank regardless of the model you choose or whether it’s powered by one of two available EcoBoost engines or hybrid powertrains. The full hybrid model with front-wheel drive even gets an EPA-estimated range of more than 550 miles.

The Escape Plug-In Hybrid model comes with Ford’s fourth-generation hybrid propulsion system. This advanced system includes a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle hybrid engine and electronic continuously variable transmission. The front-wheel drive hybrid is projected to produce 210 hp combined. It has an EPA-estimated range of 37 miles in electric-only mode. It comes with a Level 1 / Level 2 AC charging port and can fully charge in 10 to 11 hours on 110 volts or 3.5 hours on 240 volts.

The Escape PHEV features four modes that allow customers to select the settings most suitable for their individual needs, including an EV mode.

  • In Auto EV mode, the vehicle decides whether to run on gas or electric power
  • In EV Now mode, drivers can operate on all-electric driving
  • In EV Later mode, drivers can switch to full gas-powered driving to conserve electric miles for later
  • In EV Charge mode, drivers can continue to charge the battery while driving and generate electric-only miles to use later

What’s Missing

The obvious first thing I’ll get out of the way is that there’s no EV available from Ford in this price range. The Tesla superfans and stans probably shouldn’t pile on here, because there’s no Tesla in this price range, either, but GM’s offerings (the Bolt EUV and EV, or the “Bolt Brothers”) and the upcoming (and much more capable) Equinox EV show that it’s possible. I’m personally still not a fan of PHEVs, as they leave scarce battery supplies available for more cars, and are good in places with limited infrastructure, but options are nice.

Leaving EV purity aside, there are some other things that Ford could be doing here but isn’t.

First off, the plugin hybrid isn’t available with all-wheel-drive. The obvious reason they wouldn’t do this is that there are batteries in the way of where the driveline would go from the front transaxle to the rear differential. But, electrification gives you more options. A modest rear drive unit could give some power to the rear wheels without needing a driveshaft, and it could work in both EV and hybrid mode. This would make the PHEV option a lot more attractive for customers who find AWD to be important.

With an AWD option, it would be possible to offer an ST-line version of the PHEV for people who want a sporty Escape PHEV, and who want that appearance package in a cleaner version with at least some electric range.

Going Beyond The Escape

The other thing an AWD PHEV would do is enable Ford to offer the Bronco Sport (a very popular small SUV/Crossover) in a plugin hybrid configuration. It’s built on the same platform, so the technology would easily translate. While the Sport was never meant to be the off-roader that the bigger Bronco is, it’s still a very capable vehicle compared to many crossovers if you mount some all terrain tires on it. How do I know this? My mom owns one and has taken it up some serious trails in Colorado.

This is even more impressive considering that she only owns the more basic Big Bend package, and not the top-spec Badlands.

Offering a PHEV Bronco Sport with mild off-road capabilities would be a great way to get people into electrification and offer the smooth, controllable torque at low speeds that EVs excel at in off-road driving. Plus, when driving the thing in town, the owners wouldn’t have to pollute or waste money buying expensive gas.

So, we’re really missing out a lot when Ford doesn’t make an AWD PHEV in the Escape and Bronco Sport vehicles.

Featured image provided by Ford, showing the Escape PHEV (left) and ST-line (right).

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1983 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba