Ford’s new Escape [Maverick] Hybrid sport utility vehicle, with an electric motor to help its engine wring twice as many miles from a gallon of petrol, will cost at least $US3,300 more than a standard Escape SUV, the carmaker reportedly said on Monday.

According to Reuters, the base 2005 Escape Hybrid, which gets an estimated 35 to 40 miles per gallon and goes on sale this summer, will be $US26,970, or $28,595 equipped with four-wheel drive. Both prices include destination and delivery charges of $590, the report added.

Reuters said the vehicle is Ford’s first hybrid petrol-electric model, and the first hybrid SUV on the market – the manufacturer’s suggested retail price will be between $3,300 to $3,425 above the price of a comparably equipped Escape XLT model with a V6 engine.

The report noted that carmakers price hybrid petrol-electric models thousands of dollars higher to compensate for the cost of batteries and other components – the recent petrol price surge has generated interest among US consumers in fuel-efficient hybrid engines, although roomy SUVs remain more popular than smaller cars.

Ford reportedly said the Escape Hybrid qualifies for various federal and state incentives, including a “clean fuel vehicles” federal tax deduction of $1,500 for 2004 purchases.