Consortium members were privileged to receive further OEM hybrid vehicle training when they met in Catonsville, Md. April 20 and 21. A day long technical training session covering the Ford escape hybrid was hosted by Mr. Terry Wolfe and his staff at the Community College of Baltimore County, a member of the NAFTC. The training, complete with multiple hands-on aids, and a Ford Escape hybrid for viewing and test driving, provided in-depth information into the myths and realisms of owning and driving a hybrid vehicle. After completing the class and driving the vehicle, it was agreed that there was very little difference between a hybrid vehicle and a conventional vehicle to the consumer. However, the details within are fascinating!
Each session of the training was led by Mr. Jim Kelly who is an instructor working with the Technical Support Operations Dept. of Ford Motor Company. Jim led the group through Ford’s newly developed technician training program that utilizes online learning resources in addition to shop tasks and the instructor’s presentation. As is always the case with hybrids and their high voltage electrical system, technician safety is Job 1. Ford recommends the placement of safety cones at the four corners of the service bay when servicing a hybrid. Emphasis was placed on the proper use of other high voltage safety devices including the safety hook, face shield and insulated work gloves.
After using Ford’s online resources to research some diagnostic problems, the group went to perform shop tasks. These tasks included component location and understanding principles of operation of the many new systems that are becoming standard on Hybrids, such as electronically operated throttle, brake and traction control systems and electrically assisted power steering! It was interesting to note that Ford is now using “informational DTC’s” which are designed to present additional diagnostic information to the servicing technician. This additional information, provided by onboard diagnostic software, should enable the technician to pinpoint the source of a problem in much less time than has been possible in the past. Each session was concluded by a ride and drive opportunity.
The Ford Escape has been designed to operate just like a conventional vehicle. There is no start button, no systems check. The driver need only turn the key, start the vehicle, select drive or reverse and go! Once accustomed to idle stop, electric launch and the continuously variable hybrid transmission (no shifts!), an Escape driver need only learn that this vehicle can achieve an average fuel economy of about 29-30 miles per gallon! It was agreed that this feature of the Escape Hybrid will be easy to get used to!