DEARBORN, MI — A new version of Ford’s hybrid SUV, the Escape Hybrid E-85, will be the first hybrid-electric vehicle to run on ethanol-based fuel, according to the Web site Ford introduced its Ford Escape Hybrid E-85 concept at the recent 2007 Washington Auto Show. The model on display was the first of 20 vehicles that Ford will deliver to various test fleets in six states starting in the spring. The company didn’t say whether or when it would start selling the Escape Hybrid E-85 to the public. Vehicles that can run on E-85 ethanol, called flex-fuel vehicles, are already available to consumers. But there are currently no hybrid-electric vehicles on sale that can use this fuel, according to Ford. The manufacturer says it is committed to making half of its vehicle fleet flex-fuel capable by 2012. Ford said that the Escape Hybrid E-85 produces 25-percent fewer carbon-dioxide emissions when fueled by E-85, as opposed to gasoline. If 5 percent of U.S. vehicles were powered by E-85 ethanol-capable hybrids, oil imports could be cut by 140-million barrels each year, according to www. The gasoline-only Escape Hybrid became the first hybrid SUV available to the public when it was introduced in 2004; its 2007 model made’s list of the 10 most fuel-efficient vehicles of 2007. Ford recently unveiled an updated 2008 version of the Escape Hybrid at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials