CHICAGO -- Ford Motor Company is taking a series of actions to boost the popularity, visibility and availability of energy-saving vehicles. Ford is teaming up with energy partners, the public, city and state governments, and private companies to expand hybrids and vehicles capable of running on E85 ethanol.

Ford will launch the beginnings of a "Midwest Ethanol Corridor" -- expanding E85 ethanol fuel availability by about one-third throughout the states of Illinois and Missouri this year through the company's ongoing partnership with VeraSun Energy, a renewable energy company. Actions to increase the availability of ethanol in neighboring states are planned, as well.

Ford also announced that it is working with the city of Chicago to put hybrid vehicles into service as taxi cabs beginning in 2007, as part of a plan being considered today by the Chicago City Council. Ford is loaning the city an Escape Hybrid to serve as a training and education tool with taxi fleets and the public. The Ford Escape Hybrid will help taxi companies reduce fuel expenses while helping to improve the air quality in the city.

"Ford is advancing innovative solutions to customer concerns over high gas prices and America's overdependence on foreign oil," says Bill Ford, Ford Motor Company chairman and CEO. "Ethanol is an innovative energy source straight from the heartland of America."

E85 ethanol is a fuel blend that contains 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Ethanol is a completely renewable fuel that, in the U.S., is most commonly made from corn. Gasoline sold in the U.S. frequently contains up to 10 percent ethanol, but an increasing number of vehicles on the road today can operate on blends containing up to 85 percent ethanol. To date, approximately 500 of the more than 180,000 fuel stations in the United States currently offer E85 ethanol.

Midwest ethanol corridor