Ever hear of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles? Neither have I. In fact, when the program came into existence under President Clinton in 1993, I was just 7 years old. I knew nothing of cars or fuel efficiency. This program involved the three major U.S. automakers and eight Federal Agencies. The initiative was to produce several high-mileage concept cars to be put into production by 2003, and each of the automakers deliver. GM came up with the Precept, Chrysler the ESX II, and Ford developed the Prodigy. Each was a hybrid vehicle capable of delivering about 80 mpg.
The Ford Prodigy is heading to auction next month in Monterey, California. So why haven’t I ever heard of it before?
Admittedly, I was young, so maybe some of you older folks heard of these cars way back in the day. The idea was to get American automakers, using tax dollars, to develop fuel efficient cars. Alas, that clashed with what Americans apparently wanted; gas-guzzling SUV’s. The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles was canceled in 2001 at the request of automakers. Irony of ironies, this was when the Prius was actually starting to gain some traction and harken a new era of hybrid cars.
The Prodigy is being sold without its hybrid-electric drive train, but there are still many fuel-saving features here. This includes a drag coefficient of .199, better than even the egg-shaped Prius. The engine was the true technological wonder though. With 1.2 liters of displacement, it used direct injection and an automatically shifted manual transmission (whatever that means; perhaps similar to the Smart ForTwo?) as well as a battery-assist to increase fuel economy. And it still managed to produce 74 horsepower… at 4,100 rpm. Ok, so it was slow as hell, but it got a projected 78 mpg!
Other features? Automatic ride-height lowering (to reduce drag), a grille shutter to close off, side-mounted cameras to reduce drag from side mirrors, and under car shields. And this is from a car developed almost 20 years ago. Funny how all of this technology is just now starting to come back out. Hey Ford! Bring the Prodigy back! I bet you’ll find people who want to buy an 80 mpg car today.
Source: RM Auctions | Image: Ford
Chris DeMorro is a car enthusiast, blogger, and all-around crazy man who is as passionate about hybrids as he is about Hemis. You can follow his constant misadventures at Three Months In A Mustang.