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Saving lives, the environment and... money
Ford Escape Hybrid with L.A. lifeguards:
9,000 rescues with 25% better fuel economy

Ford Escape Hybrid (front view) for the Los Angeles County beaches Lifeguard Service

Los Angeles County beaches: the Lifeguard Service has used for the past year a fleet of 45 Ford Escape Hybrids.

APN

16 June 2009.

While the relatively limited driving range restricts electric vehicles for urban use, especially with the hours needed to recharge their batteries, hybrid vehicles are on the hand growing far more popular, since their fuel tanks can be recharged in regular stations.

Apparently, this growth is not even restricted to regular roads anymore, as hybrid vehicles are now hitting the beaches, in a rather original way (see also Ford program for the development of future generation plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, PHEV and its new collaboration with Canadian Hydro-Québec electric company on PHEV).

Ford Escape Hybrid (rear view) for the Los Angeles County beaches Lifeguard Service.

45 customized Escape Hybrids to patrol 72 miles of coastline.

That's what Ford is proving with its Escape Hybrid vehicle, at Los Angeles County beaches, where the Lifeguard Service (a division of the fire department) has used for the past year a fleet of 2009 Ford Escape Hybrids to save human lives, the environment and... fuel consumption (by no less than 25%, despite increased driving).

Of course, saving money cannot be the most important element of an activity focused on the safety of more than 58 million people who visit Los Angeles' sandy beaches every year, a fact which explains the need for a fleet of 45 customized Escape Hybrids to patrol 72 miles (116 km) of coastline, with missions ranging from saving injured surfers to moving swimmers out of rip currents, or simply reuniting lost children with their parents.

Ford Escape Hybrid vehicles outside Lifeguard Headquarters at Venice Beach (AP Photo/Ford Motor Company, Bob Riha, Jr.).

Ford Escape Hybrid vehicles outside Lifeguard Headquarters at Venice Beach (AP Photo/Ford Motor Company, Bob Riha, Jr.).

Last October for example, the lifeguards stationed in Malibu used three Escape Hybrids and an F-350 in the rescue of two men involved in a single-engine plane crash near the Malibu Pier. In January 2009, lifeguards used an Escape Hybrid to tow a wave runner into position to launch a rescue of a capsized kayaker who was at risk of hypothermia. Two months later, lifeguards patrolling in an Escape Hybrid rescued a surfer who had been knocked unconscious in the water and was in danger of drowning.

  Customisation

Customising the Escape Hybrid for such missions - and based on input from the lifeguards -, Ford designers removed the 60 percent part of the rear seat on the driver's side and replaced it with a rescue equipment storage unit: an aluminium box with specially designated spaces for emergency equipment, such as defibrillators, trauma boxes and oxygen tanks. The remaining 40 percent of the seat was left, in case the lifeguards had to transport someone.

Ford designers also outfitted the Escape Hybrids with a custom-fit roof rack for the lifeguards' paddle board and spine boards.

To make them easily recognisable, the vehicles were painted a vibrant yellow – iconic for lifeguards – and then detailed with corresponding graphics and finished off with dark wheels.

Quite logically, the lifeguards said that the four-wheel drive feature enables them to make more precise turns and navigate the sandy terrain without getting stuck.

  Economy

On the pecuniary side, the Escape Hybrid fleet also enabled L.A. lifeguards to reduce their fleet's fuel usage by 25 percent, which represented more than 5,000 U.S. gallons of gas (4,163 imp. gallons, 18,927 litres) during the first six months of service, despite increased driving due to 20 percent higher beach attendance than the previous year.

In specific fuel economy terms, the four-wheel-drive Escape Hybrids deliver a fuel economy of 29 U.S. mpg city (34.8 UK mpg, 8.11 litres/ 100 km, 12.3 km/ litre) and 27 mpg highway (32.4 UK mpg, 8.7 litres/ 100 km, 11.4 km/ litre).

The front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid, delivers 34 mpg in city driving (40.8 UK mpg, 6.9 litres/ 100 km, 14.4 km/ litre) and 30 mpg on the highway (36 UK mpg, 7.8 litres/ 100 km, 12.7 km/ litre). For heavier missions, the lifeguards also use six F-350s and two F-250s along with other specialized vehicles.

In addition to fuel savings, the lifeguards reduced their fleet's emissions by approximately 97,500 lbs. (44,225 kg) of CO2 during the first half year of service, since the Escape Hybrid meets California's Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) standard.

  2010 Escape

Away from the Los Angeles County beaches, the 2010 Escape and Escape Hybrid will add from this summer (U.S. market) five new safety and convenience features.

First, the Ford's MyKey teen-safety technology and Integrated Spotter Mirrors will be offered standard (MyKey on XLT and above models), while the Rear View Camera System and Ford SYNC with real-time Traffic, Directions and Information are optional.

The fifth new feature will make the 2010 Escape North America's first SUV to offer Active Park Assist, which uses an ultrasonic-based sensing system and Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) to position the vehicle for parallel parking, calculate the optimal steering angle and quickly steer the vehicle into a parking spot.

On the safety side, the Ford Escape already earned a "Top Safety Pick" award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in addition to 5-star government ratings in all crash tests. It is also the only compact SUV to offer standard AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control) and a standard Safety Canopy side curtain air-bag system.

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