By Alan Ohnsman
Ford, the first U.S.-based carmaker to sell a hybrid, said its pace of technology is accelerating to allow its new Fusion to top Toyota’s Camry hybrid when it goes on sale later this year.
Ford patents related to gasoline-electric systems have risen to 461, from only 30 a decade ago, with more on the way, Chuck Gray, chief engineer for hybrid and electric powertrains, said in an interview. Ford said last month that the hybrid version of its revamped Fusion will get 47 miles per gallon in city driving, 44 m.p.g. highway. The new Camry hybrid that went on sale last year is rated at 43 m.p.g. city and 39 m.p.g. highway.
“It’s good for the customer, and we like to have this competition,” Gray said. “Engineers may not be the best athletes always, but we are very competitive people.”
The rivalry between Ford and Toyota in hybrid sedan fuel-economy claims began when Dearborn-based Ford released the 2010 Fusion hybrid, edging ahead of Toyota’s first gasoline-electric Camry.
Though Toyota remains the biggest seller of hybrids, led by its Prius models, Ford and other competitors want a bigger share of the market for advanced-technology autos.
By 2020, Ford expects hybrids, plug-in vehicles and models powered solely by electricity, to account for 10% to 25% of global sales, Wes Sherwood, a company spokesman, said in a statement. The 2013 hybrid Fusion will go on sale in the second half of this year, Ford said.
Toyota has more than 2,000 patents for its hybrids, including more than 1,000 for the current Prius alone, said Jana Hartline, a company spokeswoman. The Prius hatchback is rated by the U.S. as getting 51 m.p.g. city and 48 m.p.g. highway, or 50 m.p.g. combined, the highest such rating for any non-rechargeable auto.
The carmakers last year announced plans to collaborate on a hybrid system that could be used for heavier models including pickups and large SUVs.