Ford has introduced the newest hybrid on the market - the 2010 Ford Fusion

Ford has introduced the newest hybrid on the market - the 2010 Ford Fusion

The administration would support giving consumers additional incentives to buy fuel-efficient vehicles, such as tax credits, a White House official said Tuesday.

Most auto makers have already started to work on a range of vehicles that will move them closer to meeting the Obama administration's goals.

On Tuesday, Ford began full production of its EcoBoost engines that it expects to boost fuel economy by 10% to 20% and lower greenhouse gas emissions by about 15%. Within three years, Ford expects to sell 750,000 EcoBoost-equipped vehicles a year in North America. Earlier this year it launched a Ford Fusion hybrid that gets more than 40 mpg and it is working on battery-powered vehicles.

The 2010 Fusion mid-size sedan is now a serious player. The car's fuel economy, features, value, design, comfort - all are now among the best in class.

No small feat, that. The Fusion has received a fairly serious update three years after first going on sale. The platform is the same, but the exterior styling has been updated, the interior is a vast improvement and there are new engines, transmissions and features.

Pricing starts at $21,499 for the S four-cylinder version and ranges up to $35,200 for the Sport model with the V-6 engine and all-wheel-drive. Since its introduction, the Fusion has proved a viable alternative to Camry, Accord and Altima.

The base car has a 175-horsepower, 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is also available, as are a 240-horsepower, 3.0-litre V-6 and 263-horsepower, 3.5-litre V-6 and a hybrid powertrain version, too.

For starters, it’s fun to drive, with a good ride and crisp, responsive handling. It’s also the right size, compact enough to be maneuverable yet large enough to seat five people with ease. Then there’s the wide choice of configurations. Besides the usual front-drive configuration, the Fusion also offers an all-wheel-drive model and a full-hybrid version. Sadly, perhaps, not both at the same time.

Two more pluses: Not only does the Fusion have excellent crash-test results but it’s also one of the more reliable cars in our annual auto survey. It is more reliable than the ubiquitous Toyota Camry, an honor it’s held since the Camry’s 2007 redesign.

Toyota and Lexus have been the big players in what is still seen as a niche market, with Honda second in line, but with every introduction there is new technology that does things better, faster and more economically. Now Ford has introduced the newest hybrid on the market - the 2010 Ford Fusion.

Ford has high hopes for the Fusion. The lower-priced cars are aimed at some of the best family cars sold in Canada, including the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Mazda6 and Nissan Altima. But Ford also would like the Sport model to take on near-premium cars such as the Acura TSX and TL, Nissan Maxima and Subaru Legacy.

Engine choices have been improved across the board and include a 2.5-litre I4, a 3.0-litre V6 and a sporty 3.5-litre V6, all of them mated with new manual or automatic six-speed transmission choices. The V6 models come with SelectShift six-speeds for individual gear control and are also available with all-wheel drive. For the Fusion Hybrid model, the 2.5-litre I4 Duratec has been combined with electric power motor assist and a CVT transmission.

The vehicle gauge cluster features daytime backlighting with a black lens. It offers 3-D elements to create a high tech appearance, similar to a fine watch. The gauge needles move from left to right as the ambient lighting system illuminates the front and rear foot wells and cup holders.

One big feature of the Fusion Hybrid is its ability to operate on electric power alone up to 75 km/h. When you press the start button, the powertrain computer takes a look at battery state of charge and interior temperature demands. If heat is required in the passenger compartment or the battery is low on charge, the gas engine will start. Otherwise, the gas engine remains off. An electric air conditioning compressor can provide cool air and the car can pull away from a stop on electric power alone. Even if the car runs out of gas, you can still drive as long as there is a charge in the battery.

Several other elements help differentiate the Ford Fusion Hybrid from its gas-powered sibling, including unique hybrid "road and leaf" badging on both sides and the rear of the vehicle; unique 17-inch, eight-spoke wheels; eco-friendly seat fabric made from post-industrial 100 percent recycled materials; and a standard 110-volt power outlet.

The powertrain system combines the best attributes of a gasoline engine and electric battery-driven cars to deliver optimal fuel economy. The vehicle has a new propulsion system which transitions between gas and electric power and back more efficiently and seamlessly. This system allows the Ford Fusion Hybrid to operate longer at higher speeds in the electric mode.

The hybrid vehicle can operate up to 47 mph in the pure electric mode. Plus, the city driving range on a single tank of gas is expected to be more than 700 miles. Ford recently drove the Fusion for more than 1,400 miles on one tank of gas while using driving technics to conserve fuel.

While both use variable cam timing and electronic throttle control, the hybrid engine uses the Atkinson cycle principle to optimize fuel economy. The Atkinson cycle delays the closing of the intake valve during the engine’s compression stroke. As the piston is starting its upward travel, there is no restriction because some of the air in the cylinder is pushed back into the intake port. Then the valve closes. By reducing this restriction, less energy is wasted on the compression stroke.

The Atkinson cycle unfortunately also reduces low-end torque. One way of compensating for that is to increase the compression ratio so that the air remaining in the cylinders has more pressure when combustion occurs. The Fusion Hybrid has a compression ratio of 12.3 to 1 compared to the 9.7:1 compression ratio of the regular Fusion engine. Even with this high compression ratio, the engine can still operate on regular fuel.

Another method of compensating for the lower torque produced by the Atkinson cycle is to assist the engine with electric motors. Electric motors are great at producing high torque at low rpm, so combined with the gasoline engine they can provide excellent drivability.

Depending on the hybrid computer programming, the electric motor can be designed to just compensate for the lower gas engine torque, or it can be programmed to provide much more torque than possible with just a gas engine. The Honda Accord Hybrid was designed more with power in mind. Most other hybrids are programmed for a balance of economy and power and the Fusion is no exception.

The electric motors For the Fusion Hybrid are located inside their E-CVT transaxle. Two electric motors/generators are meshed together through a planetary gearset. By varying the speed and direction of the two motors, a continuously variable gear ratio can be obtained from the planetary gearset, which is a big benefit in performance and economy. When the gasoline engine is operating in conjunction with the electric motors, the engine can be operated at the best r.p.m. for economy instead of having to operate over a wider rpm range.

Another feature of the E-CVT is that both motor/generator units can be used for regenerative braking. With a 94 per cent efficiency capability, controlled by a brake simulator module, the transaxle is able to recapture most of the energy used to accelerate the car whenever it is slowing down.

The powertrain system combines the best attributes of a gasoline engine and electric battery-driven cars to deliver optimal fuel economy.

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