The Escape’s surprise is the new plug-in hybrid, an intriguing model that promises an EV range of at least 30 miles before the four-cylinder engine kicks in to help. In the real world, this means folks with shorter commutes can drive to and from work without ever using a drop of gas.
This is very innovative and solves the big weakness of current EVs – which is the ability to do long distance car travel without having to make numerous recharging stops. Youtube is filled with videos of EV enthusiasts showing how they have driven cross country “successfully”, where success is not what most people want to do. For EV enthusiasts, the challenge of making it work is the whole point, whereas for the rest of us, getting from point A to point B is the purpose of the drive.
The two main problems for cross country travel, depending on vehicle, are the need to stop every few hours and, if a rapid charger is available, plug in for an hour or more to top off the battery. They try to do this with a stop near a restaurant or coffee shop, if possible, but since rapid charging stations are at limited locations, this may put you at less than desirable cafes within walking distance.
The second main problem for EVs is that for those of us who live in cold winter climates (most of North America, geographically), the range is reduced by 20% to 30% in cold weather. This occurs both due to the effect of cold on the battery chemistry and due to using the battery to power the vehicle’s electrically powered heater.
The hybrid approach used here by Ford overcomes these limitations of EVs – enabling EV operation around town, which is likely half or more of the total vehicle miles driving, but then adding gas-based for longer trips.
Finally, EVs are not “carbon free”. For example, where I live, 56% of our electrical power generation comes from coal-fired power plants. Thus, EVs here are 56% powered by coal. (We are installing solar PV on our house within a few weeks, so there is that option – but power generation is greatly reduced during the winter months.)