Ford Motor Co. announced June 20 that electronic throttle control (ETC) is one of several new technologies it will introduce next year as standard equipment on the 2004 Explorer to help increase its fuel economy by about 5 percent while reducing emissions. Ford says ETC will enhance the performance feel of the Explorer.Both engines available on the 2004 Ford Explorer, the 4.0-liter V-6 and the 4.6-liter V-8, will feature "drive-by-wire," a torque-based, "intelligent" ETC with a gasoline engine. Advanced engine computing power is the key to optimizing the operation of this technology. Ford says its Powertrain Control Module (PCM) and Electric Controller Area Network (CAN) will work together to provide power on demand to the driver for more responsive "tip-in."According to Ford, a number of other technologies to be introduced on the 2004 Explorer also helps improve its fuel economy by reducing friction and parasitic energy loss. These technologies include coated pistons, torque converter upgrade, electronic returnless fuel system, low rolling resistance tires, synthetic rear axle lube, and an advanced exhaust gas return (EGR) system. "Bundling together several technologies will enable us to deliver to our Explorer customers improvements in fuel efficiency while further lowering emissions levels," said Bob Himes, engineering director - Ford SUV product development. "This is all part of the difficult work in cost-effectively engineering technologies that increase fuel efficiency without taking away any of the capabilities that have made Explorer the top-selling SUV."Metro-highway fuel economy for the most popular 2004 model - the 4x4 with V-6 engine - is expected to increase to 20 mpg from 19 mpg on the 2003 Explorer. Fuel economy for the base model (4x2 V-6) will increase to 21 mpg from 20 mpg metro-highway. Similarly, metro-highway fuel economy for Explorers with the optional V-8 engine will increase to 19 mpg on 4x4 models from 18 mpg on the 2003 Explorer, and 20 mpg for 4x2 models from 19 mpg on the 2003, according to the company. The 2004 Explorer equipped with 4.6-liter V-8 engine will meet the U.S. federal government's new standard for Low Emission Vehicles (LEV II). "We will introduce the Ford Escape Hybrid next year that will be the cleanest SUV available while delivering nearly 40 mpg in stop-and-go city driving," said Himes.Ford made the 2004 Explorer announcement at FutureTruck 2002, an advanced vehicle competition sponsored by Ford, The U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, Cisco Systems, and other organizations that concludes this week in California after a week of evaluation events at Ford's Arizona Proving Grounds. FutureTruck 2002 is a competition in which teams of engineering students from 15 universities throughout North America re-engineer Ford Explorers with alternative propulsion systems to maximize fuel efficiency and minimize the impact of greenhouse gases without compromising safety, performance, or customer appeal.