Ford Prodigy

Contact: Jon Harmon, 313-845-5745
Brendan Prebo, 313-390-3091

DETROIT, Jan. 10, 2000 - Ford Prodigy is a hybrid electric, low emission family car that can travel nearly 80 miles per gallon of fuel without sacrificing performance or functionality. The lightweight, aerodynamic and fuel-efficient Prodigy - unveiled at the North American International Auto Show - demonstrates Ford's progress in developing a hybrid electric family vehicle with mass appeal.

"Prodigy is an extremely fuel-efficient, full-function family vehicle," says Neil Ressler, vice president of Research and Vehicle Technology and Ford Motor Company's chief technical officer. "It represents an interim stage between our P2000 research programs and our plans for an affordable, production hybrid in 2003."

The stylish, roomy Prodigy is designed to be stingy on fuel without sacrificing customer appeal in areas such as performance, affordability and roominess. The sedan is built on a lightweight platform, features a modern, aerodynamic design and is powered by a low storage requirement (LSR) hybrid electric powertrain.

Last October, Ford became the first automaker to deliver a fully functional hybrid electric family sedan research vehicle to the U.S. Department of Energy, as part of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) initiative. Called the Ford P2000 LSR, the vehicle demonstrated many production-feasible technologies necessary for a "no-compromise" family sedan with extremely high fuel economy.

Both Prodigy and P2000 LSR are powered by small, energy-efficient diesel engines. Prodigy's 78 miles per gallon diesel fuel economy is equivalent to better than 70 mpg on gasoline. PNGV's goal is to develop a production-feasible family vehicle achieving 80 mpg gasoline equivalent.

Prodigy improves on the P2000 LSR with advancements in powertrain refinement, aerodynamics and rolling resistance.

Prodigy's low storage requirement hybrid electric propulsion system includes an aluminum DIATA (Direct Injection, Aluminum Through Bolt Assembly) engine, starter/alternator, automatically shifted manual transmission and high-power battery.

The DIATA engine is about 35 percent more efficient than conventional gasoline engines. This four-cylinder, 1.2-liter compression-ignition, direct-injection engine generates 74 horsepower at 4,100 rpm.

Prodigy's starter/alternator, a small high-power electric motor packaged between the transmission and the engine, delivers additional power when needed. It delivers up to 47 horsepower for a total of up to 121 horsepower. The combination of these two power sources gives Prodigy customer-pleasing performance comparable to today's Taurus.

The starter/alternator and power electronics module gives Prodigy the capability of stopping at idle to conserve otherwise-wasted fuel. Prodigy's DIATA engine restarts less than 0.2 seconds - literally the blink of an eye - after the driver touches the accelerator pedal.

Prodigy's instrument panel features an energy-flow display that continually shows the flow of energy around the vehicle. When the engine is off, the display indicates the "ready" status of the engine and the state of charge for the battery electric drive system.

Because the engine shuts off when the vehicle is at rest - such as at a traffic light or when braking - the energy flow display assures the driver that power will be available when needed.

The automatically shifted transmission combines the operating ease of an automatic transmission with the efficiency of a manual transmission. It is 20 percent more efficient than a typical automatic transmission.

Since the vehicle's LSR design requires only very modest energy storage - less than half that of a conventional starter battery - the result is a lower-cost and less complex hybrid system.

Prodigy's aerodynamic design enhances vehicle aesthetics while reducing air resistance. Prodigy's 0.199 coefficient of drag (a measure of air resistance when a vehicle is in motion) represents a 33-percent improvement compared with the P2000 LSR. This helps improve the vehicle's fuel economy by 4 miles per gallon.

Helping to enhance the vehicle's aerodynamics are side-mounted cameras and onboard monitors used in place of conventional side-view mirrors. The cameras provide a needed side view for the driver while not hindering airflow around the vehicle.

Variable ride height, grille shutters and shields under the car also contribute to the vehicle's slippery aerodynamics.

The clean, simple exterior design of the Prodigy features trapezoidal headlamps and taillamps and a louvered grille that functions only when needed - opening and closing to allow air in and out. The taut surfaces coupled with the wider overall stance - with 19-inch, five-spoke chrome wheels and tires set to the very edges - give Prodigy a dramatic, sporty look. The exterior body panels are finished in Potomac blue.

Prodigy's platform is based on Ford's extensive lightweight materials research, which included the Aluminum Intensive Vehicle - introduced in 1994 - and the P2000. Prodigy's total weight is 2,387 pounds, which is approximately 1,000 pounds less than today's family sedan.

Weight reduction was achieved without sacrificing package efficiency. Prodigy is 30 percent lighter than today's Taurus sedan, but - thanks to creative packaging and lightweight materials - passenger space and luggage capacity are the same.

Each lightweight component in the Prodigy also was designed to deliver safety, strength, stiffness, durability and positive ride and handling. For example, the Prodigy uses a smaller engine to attain comparable performance. It also achieves good ride characteristics with lighter springs and shocks.

Aluminum has been used extensively for major components such as the engine and body. Additionally, carbon fiber, magnesium and titanium have been used in a variety of parts for further weight savings.

Prodigy is part of Ford's efforts in the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) program. PNGV is a collaboration among Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), national laboratories, suppliers and universities aimed at producing breakthroughs in fuel economy.

Ford's hybrid propulsion work is part of the DOE's Hybrid Propulsion Systems Development Program being conducted under a cost-shared subcontract funded equally by Ford and the DOE through the Midwest Research Institute, which manages and operates DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.