• The Fusion Hybrid uses lithium-ion batteries.
  • The technology is greener than nickel batteries.
  • The Fusion Hybrid goes on sale shortly.

In addition to offering tremendous fuel economy, Ford's latest Fusion Hybrid boasts another important selling point for environmentally conscious car shoppers. According to Ford, the all-new Fusion Hybrid uses updated lithium-ion battery technology that minimizes the sedan's impact on the environment by reducing the use of rare earth metals.

The automaker says that while its first- and second-generation hybrid systems used nickel-metal-hydride, or NiMH, batteries, the new Fusion Hybrid will instead use lithium-ion battery technology in its hybrid drivetrain. Not only are the new batteries up to 50 percent lighter than their predecessors, but they're also around 30 percent smaller, and they're less harmful to the environment, since they use fewer rare earth metals.

That's a good thing for environmentally conscious car shoppers whose concerns span beyond fuel economy. While the Fusion's recently announced Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy rating of 47 mpg in city and highway driving is impressive, the sedan's new batteries also offer a significant environmental benefit, reducing the use of rare earth metals by up to 500,000 lb per year.

"We're continually looking to find ways to provide greater fuel efficiency as well as cost savings to customers of our hybrid vehicles, and the reduction of rare earth metals is a key part of this strategy," said Chuck Gray, Ford's global core engineering chief engineer for hybrid and electric vehicles. "The third-generation hybrid technology we are now using builds on our 20 years of electric vehicle innovations."

Despite the weight savings and environmental benefits associated with lithium-ion batteries, few of the Fusion Hybrid's competitors have adopted the technology. The Toyota Prius, for example, still uses nickel-metal-hydride batteries in all versions except its latest plug-in model, as does the Honda Insight. Only the latest hybrid models, including the newly redesigned Honda Civic and Chevrolet Malibu Eco, also make use of lithium-ion technology.

The Fusion Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient model in the newly redesigned Fusion's lineup. Other engine variants include a base-level 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, a miserly 1.6-liter turbocharged EcoBoost model that returns up to 37 mpg, and a powerful 2.0-liter Fusion EcoBoost that produces nearly 240 hp.

A plug-in hybrid model, dubbed the Fusion Energi, goes on sale this spring. That model will feature a fully electric range of around 20 miles and an EPA rating of 100 mpg "equivalent."

What it means to you: Using lithium-ion battery technology makes the Fusion Hybrid greener than several key competitors.

author photo

Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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