Ford’s new-generation Escape mid-size SUV may be entering Australian showrooms in mid-November, but it will do so without its PHEV (plug-in hybrid) flagship, which has been delayed until late next year due an ongoing fire risk with the model’s lithium-ion battery cells.
In Europe, where the Escape is known as the Kuga and built, the PHEV has not only been taken off sale, but 20,500 delivered vehicles were recalled last month as Ford continues to resolve the supplier issue, which has more recently led to the US postponing local production until 2021.
In August, Ford of Europe announced the Spanish-built PHEV’s lithium-ion battery cells had resulted in fires due to overheating, urging owners to not charge their vehicles and drive them in their EV Auto mode only.
Speaking to Australian journalists this week, Ford Australia communications director Matt Moran confirmed the Escape PHEV is further away than initially hoped, with local examples having not even been produced yet in Spain and therefore not involved in the ongoing saga.
“We are currently facing supply changes with the Escape PHEV, and while timing’s not yet confirmed, we do anticipate that it will be late 2021 before it arrives in Australia,” he said.
“We continue to work with our global counterparts, and if we can bring it earlier, we will.”
When asked for a detailed update on the PHEV’s woes, Ford global Escape (Kuga) vehicle line chief program engineer James Hughes revealed an official announcement will be made by the Blue Oval in the coming days.
“There will be some announcements that will come from Ford of Europe that will clarify the current status and will also provide the projections of the supplier quality improvements that we’re making to mitigate the current situation,” he said.
For reference, the PHEV combines a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine (running on the Atkinson cycle) with an electric motor. Both drive the front wheels only, delivering a system power output of 167kW.
The 14.4kWh battery in question provides an electric-only driving range of more than 50km, while the ‘self-charging’ Toyota RAV4 Hybrid rival’s claimed fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test is 1.5 litres per 100km.
As reported, the PHEV is priced from $52,940 plus on-road costs in Australia, where it is only available in the Escape’s sporty ST-Line grade.