The 2020 Ford Escape PHEV Option

Apr 25, 2019

How PHEV's still represent one of the best bargains for wooing buyers into electric drive technology and for stretching Li Ion battery resources for building EV's.

Over the last few weeks Ford Motor Company has been announcing the coming model year update of the new 2020 Ford Escape. The new model will have three gas engine variants, a hybrid version, and a PHEV version. While none of the new engine variants interest me (they all require premium fuel because they are turbo charged) the PHEV model I found to be particularly compelling because it is supposed to have at least 30 miles of EV only range while sporting a 14.4 kWh battery pack that fits underneath the rear seats.

In the way of a little personal history here we bought a 2015 Ford C-Max Energi in November of 2016 when we came across a model at a dealership that was marked 30% off to move the last car they had of this model off the lot. The C-Max Energi is a plug in hybrid electric (PHEV) with 20 miles of EV only mode capability. We have really enjoyed the car, but when our pickup truck is paid off in 2020 we are thinking about upgrading to a battery electric vehicle.

We really want to buy a Tesla Model 3 in the late fall of 2020, but are concerned about availability, and cost. While it is probable we may be able to find a new Tesla we can afford, or that even a used Tesla Model 3’s will be on the market, we need a good backup plan. Even if other model EV’s such as the Kia Niro or a Hyundai Kona are available, the lack of a good charging network might be an issue considering we live in the desert southwest with large distances between cities.

This was our original motivation for buying a PHEV, that is the lack of charging infrastructure in our region, and lack of range in most of the viable EV choices we had available to us in the late fall of 2016. Our experience with a 20 mile range PHEV was quite surprising given what we thought the car would do when we bought it. It turned out even with our eclectic driving cycle the electric drive could meet from 55% to 66% of driving needs in local driving although we live over 20 miles from town.

Just on the basis of proportionality a car with 30 miles of EV range should be able to meet over 80% of driving needs. The 2020 Ford Escape PHEV has many other things to recommend it however. For us the Escape PHEV would be a step up in both size and comfort. It is very familiar to us being a similar drivetrain platform only with more modern passenger interface.

The new Escape would have better connect ability, with more interior room, and comfort which would be a real plus for us. Charging for 30 miles of range would only take 3.5 hours with our current EVSE equipment.

See the attached link to a Car and Driver review of the 2020 Ford Escape if you are interested in the details.

For the industry and the public generally we think a small SUV platform in PHEV form like the Escape, represents some significant benefits for the public. If you have a vehicle that only needs a 14.4 kWh battery pack for a vehicle that can fill 80% or more of most buyers driving cycle in EV only mode it represents an significant stretching of Li Ion battery resources. To illustrate what I mean I will use the 75 kWh battery pack of the Tesla Model 3 for comparison. Simply put 75/14.4 = 5.2 Ford Escape PHEV batteries could be built out of the same battery resources it takes to build just one Tesla Model 3.

Don’t get me wrong here, I would rather have the Tesla, but for folks out there wanting to electrify their transportation for about ten thousand dollars less out the door, the 2020 Ford Escape represents an astonishing bargain. Yes, it still has a gasoline engine, but that engine will not run very much, and will not require very many trips to a gas station. Even when you travel the gasoline consumption is only in the neighborhood of 38 miles per gallon.

Oil changes for our car are scheduled for every 10,000 miles or less than once a year in normal driving. This is because the engine (our engine) only runs for 40% of those miles. Our primary source for electricity for PHEV is from our solar grid tie power system. This means most of our electric miles are carbon emissions free.

If we drove a BEV obviously we could approach 100% carbon free emissions which would be very desirable. The big question is can we afford the extra $10K cost of a new Tesla. Our most probable option is a used one if there is one that is available when we go to pull the trigger on an electric car purchase.

In my mind these considerations make a 30 mile range PHEV a viable alternative for anyone in the market to buy a battery electric car but struggling with the issue of how to pay for the extra $10K premium over a long range Model 3. Yes, I know you could buy a standard range Model 3, but where we live 220 miles of range just isn’t enough for traveling when charging stations are located nearly that far apart in many instances.

I am just throwing this alternative out there for your consideration if you are as perplexed as I am about your electric vehicle options. I think GM made a big mistake abandoning the Chevy Volt PHEV unless it is their intention to introduce a small or intermediate size SUV on a similar PHEV platform. Knowing GM as I do their plans is anybody’s guess.

This is my take on the option of the 2020 Ford Escape PHEV. I still think PHEV’s are a good option for both the car makers and the buyers. I am a big fan of pure EV’s, but I wish their price would come down, and their range would go up. I think the sweet spot for most people is 300 miles of range but 400 miles would be even better. I say that because this is a full day of traveling for most people.

The technology is getting there for a full on S Curve starting. The car makers can get a lot more people into electric drive with PHEV’s and make the limited battery resources go further. PHEV’s are the best gateway drug I know of for the full eventual adoption of electric vehicles. Good job Ford on the 2020 Ford Escape, your 500 million dollar investment in the Rivian Company, and the electric drive platform for future truck builds.

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