Ford Motor Co. is calculating how to offer Volvo, Land Rover, Mazda and other vehicles powered by electric-gasoline "hybrid" systems during the next several years, including possible component collaboration with Toyota Motor Corp., according to a Wall Street Journal story by Norihiko Shirouzu. Ford plans to start producing a hybrid version of the Escape sport utility vehicle in late 2003. So far, Toyota and Honda Motor Co. make the only hybrid vehicles available in the U.S., both compact cars offering improvements in fuel economy of as much as 40 percent over traditional engines -- but at a cost of several thousand dollars more. If Ford enlarges the scope of its hybrid plans, it would represent one of the biggest commitments yet by an automaker to the fuel-saving technology. "We're in the process of evaluating ... what other vehicle lines and platforms make sense, and what time frame, for us to be able to offer the technology" more widely across the Ford stable of brands, said Prabhakar Patil, head of Ford's program that is developing the Escape hybrid. To reduce the cost of this still-maturing propulsion technology, Ford has been negotiating with Japan's Toyota and certain suppliers, Patil said, to "unify hybrid requirements and specifications" to create a pool of common hybrid parts. The move, he said, would boost economies of scale on each major part and cut costs greatly.