When the Ford Fusion first was introduced in 2006, it made an impression as a vehicle that was aiming for a new sweet spot in the ever-evolving car market. Slotted size-wise just below the Ford 500, the company’s replacement for the, by then, too-long neglected Taurus, the new Fusion was a credible statement that Ford was serious about getting back into the car business.
Though not wearing green on its sleeve, the Fusion was in fact a meaningful move in a subtly eco-conscious direction after years of emphasis on trucks. Having a great product in the middle of the market—just before the bigger-is-always-better trends of the 1990s came crashing down in the latter half of this past decade—gave Ford a solid footing on which to launch a hybrid version to take that technology into the mainstream.
The Fusion Hybrid’s 41 city and 36 highway mile-per-gallon ratings average out to a combined mileage of 39 mpg, according to EPA estimates. That’s more than 50 percent better than the 4-cylinder gasoline Fusion’s 25 mpg combined rating, and more than 80 percent better than EPA’s estimated average of 21 mpg for all new cars and light trucks sold last year.
In terms of carbon footprint, the Fusion Hybrid emits 4.7 tons of carbon dioxide over 15,000 miles of driving, typical of what new cars rack up these days during their first year of use. That’s 46 percent less than the average new vehicle.
The amount of planetary impact caused by cars is surprising to many folks, with average U.S. vehicles emitting four to five times their body weight in CO2 over a year. The reason is that when fuel is burned, each carbon atom in the gasoline combines with two atoms of oxygen from the air, resulting in CO2 emissions that weigh 3.6 times as much as the liquid gasoline itself. With its big efficiency gain, the Fusion Hybrid burns less fuel and so holds its annual carbon impact to a level more like that of much smaller vehicles.
The Fusion Hybrid also cleans up on the smog side of the ecologic equation. Using its all-electric mode for limited distances, there’s no tailpipe pollution at all. For more ordinary driving, the Fusion Hybrid is rated as SULEV (“super-ultra-low emission vehicle”) in California and other states that benefit from the Golden State’s stricter exhaust rules, while certifying as an EPA “Bin 3″ emissions in the rest of the country. Translated into something a bit closer to plain English, the Fusion Hybrid emits 4 to 5 pounds per year of noxious, smog-forming pollutants, or about half of what the new cars are permitted to emit on average. For perspective, that’s quite a lot less than the average of 30 pounds per year that new cars were allowed to emit a decade ago.
With is growing-green-leaves “SmartGauge” dashboard display, the Fusion Hybrid lets drivers know when they are driving cleaner than average and helps them maximize the benefits of its gas-electric powertrain. But the true beauty of the car may well be that overall it’s so little different in appearance and feel than a “regular” car. You can turn off the EcoGuide display and go about your business without having to worry whether you’re being green enough each minute of the day. The car does it for you, and that’s the real message of the Fusion Hybrid. It takes what is the most efficient automotive technology available in the mainstream market today and makes it much more ready for the masses.