As previously mentioned, Ford has begun sending Ford Escape Hybrids to the Los Angeles County Lifeguards to patrol the beaches along the southern California coastline. The first 10 of 45 hybrids have been delivered.
An unmodified Ford Escape Hybrid is rated to get 34 mpg city/ 30 mpg highway, but the four-wheel-drive models are rated slightly lower at 29/27.
Mike Frazer, chief, Lifeguard Services, Los Angeles County Fire Department was impressed by the Escape's ability on the sand.
"The switch from a pickup to an SUV was something new to us, but when Ford brought the Escape Hybrid down to the beach, we were amazed at how well it performed," he said.
The SUV needed some modifications to handle all of the equipment needed by a lifeguard. 60 percent of the back seat was removed and replaced with a rescue equipment storage unit - an aluminum box with specially designated spaces for important emergency equipment, such as defibrillators, trauma boxes and oxygen tanks.
The center console was replaced with a radio rack that keeps all of their equipment lined up and organized. Designers also put in a custom-fit roof rack for the lifeguards' paddle board and spine board, and easy-to-clean rubber floor mats and cargo liners.
Press Release follows:
LOS ANGELES, May 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Ford Motor Company (NYSE:
F) is teaming up with the Los Angeles County Lifeguards, a division of the
Los Angeles County Fire Department, to help save lives while protecting the
environment. Today, Ford presented the squad with the first 10 of a fleet
of 45 eco-friendly Escape Hybrids with Intelligent four-wheel-drive,
specially equipped for use on rescue patrol along 72 miles of Southern
"We are the largest lifeguard organization in the world, and we have
always blazed the trail for the profession," said Mike Frazer, chief,
Lifeguard Services, Los Angeles County Fire Department. "We wanted to be
the first public safety agency in the country to go green."
"This continues the Escape Hybrid's impressive string of endorsements,"
said Hal Dewsnap, California regional sales manager for Ford Motor Company.
"In addition to being clean and fuel-efficient, the Escape Hybrid is highly
functional and durable, proven in hundreds of thousands of miles in taxi
service in New York and San Francisco. Now, we are adding lifeguard duty to
There is no better vehicle for that assignment than the world's most
fuel- efficient SUV. The front-wheel-drive Ford Escape Hybrid returns 34
mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway. Intelligent four-wheel-drive
models, like the ones used by the lifeguards, return 29 mpg city and 27
"The Escape Hybrid is one of the cleanest vehicles available today,"
added Freeman Thomas, Ford Design Director whose studio developed the
design of the Lifeguard vehicles. "It meets California's strict Partial
Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) standard. To put it in a California summer
context, it releases fewer smog-forming emissions into the atmosphere
during a three-hour drive (about 180 miles) than grilling one hamburger in
your back yard."
Frazer says he knew that the Escape Hybrid was an ideal choice from an
environmental standpoint, but he admits to having some initial reservations
about whether an SUV would function as well on the beach as the compact
pickup trucks the lifeguards were used to driving.
"The switch from a pickup to an SUV was something new to us, but when
Ford brought the Escape Hybrid down to the beach, we were amazed at how
well it performed," he said, adding that he was particularly surprised by
the vehicle's ability to navigate through the sand without getting stuck.
With the Escape Hybrid, Frazer says he was also able to make more
precise turns, enjoy extra headroom (he's 6'5") and gain greater
visibility, which is a huge safety plus on the beach.
"We need to be able to see as much as possible because there's so much
activity on the beach, especially in the summertime," he said. "When we're
responding to a rescue, we want to get there quickly and safely."
Shortly after that initial field test, a team of designers from Ford's
Irvine studio visited the beach to do a little "guerrilla research," says
Ford designer Jeff Nield.
"These people save lives, so this was not just an exercise in styling,"
said Nield. "We wanted to design features for them that are functional and
could potentially save them valuable time in an emergency situation."
Careful inspection of the previous trucks the lifeguards were using
revealed various makeshift storage areas for critical equipment.
"What happened in the past is that different lifeguards would set
vehicles up differently, so if you worked at one beach and then got called
in a crisis to another location, you would have to search to find the
emergency tools you needed because the storage area was not standardized,"
The Ford designers decided to remove 60 percent of the rear seat on the
driver's side and replace it with a rescue equipment storage unit - an
aluminum box with specially designated spaces for important emergency
equipment, such as defibrillators, trauma boxes and oxygen tanks.
The remaining 40 percent of the seat was left intact in case the
lifeguards had to transport someone, such as a lost child.
According to Ford Design Project Manager, Greg Hutting, the lifeguards'
multiple radios also presented the design team with a challenge.
"In the previous vehicle, they had three or four different radios
pushed wherever they had room," he said. "We pulled out the center console
and replaced it with a radio rack that keeps all of their equipment lined
up and organized."
Ford designers also outfitted the Escape Hybrids with a custom-fit roof
rack for the lifeguards' paddle board and spine board, and easy-to-clean
rubber floor mats and cargo liners.
When it came to the exterior, Nield says it was important to make the
vehicle look "fresh but not trendy." The vehicles were painted a vibrant
yellow - iconic for lifeguards - and then detailed with authoritative
graphics and finished off with dark wheels.
"We really pushed to make the vehicle look as rugged as possible," said
Frazer says he couldn't be more pleased. "The vehicles look amazing,
they perform great and they are hybrids, so they are good for the
environment," he said. "It's a win, win, win situation for us."
It's also a win for Ford Motor Company.
"The lifeguards are going to be pushing these vehicles to the limit,
and they need the best vehicle to get the job done," added Nield. "They had
choices, and they chose the Ford Escape Hybrid."