Ford Escape Hybrid (2005-2007, 1st generation) Plug-in Cross-Charge Jumpstart

A 1st generation (2005-2007) Ford Escape Hybrid with a “dead” 330V high voltage (HV) battery can be manually charged from wall outlet with the use of a 12V charger when the voltage has dropped extremely low.

Most Ford Escape Hybrids from 2005-2007 are still using the original hybrid battery packs in 2024. Very impressive performance for 18 years of discharging and charging.

Proceed at your own risk! You are recommended to go to a certified dealer to service your vehicle.

The “shore power” cross charging method described further down in this post could be used to top off the hybrid battery under normal circumstances in theory - effectively turning the 1st generation Ford Escape Hybrid into a low capacity plug-in hybrid.

When the Ford Escape Hybrid is not driven for long periods of time, the vehicle’s 330V HV nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery loses charge and the decrease in voltage may make the vehicle unable to fully start. Symptoms are:

  • STOP SAFELY message in the dashboard display
  • Service Soon (yellow wrench) instrument cluster light on
  • Engine does not start when turning the ignition
  • Repeated clicking sounds when turning the ignition
  • Loss of engine power when driving
  • Brake pressurization lagging sounds
  • Engine misfiring/skipping at high (normally >3000) RPMs due to lack of power boost from the battery

Anyways, we know why you are reading this post. Let’s jump into it.

Quick and Easy Solution

Sometimes an older 330V or 12V battery needs a few minutes and warmer temperatures to provide a higher voltage. Unfortunately the Ford Escape Hybrid does not tell you which battery has low power so you’ll need to figure out as mentioned further down.

  1. Remove the key from the ignition.
  2. Open the driver’s door and then close it. This turns off power to 12V accessories such as the radio to prevent power draw.
  3. Wait 5-10 minutes for the batteries’ voltages to rise.
  4. Insert key into ignition.
  5. Turn key in ignition and hold for ~5 seconds.

If the vehicle engine starts up, drive around with the HVAC selector set to the orange Defroster or Max A/C settings to keep the engine on and charge the batteries a bit.

If the vehicle engine does not start up, it is time to try to raise the HV battery voltage as described below.

HV Battery Jump Start Button

The 1st generation Ford Escape Hybrid has an HV jump start button located inside the driver side foot well.

This button will connect the 12V and 330V batteries for eight minutes and allow the 12V battery to charge the 330V battery. I have never purposely tested or been able to confirm if it will allow power to flow the opposite direction for the 330V battery to charge the 12V battery.

Ford Escape Hybrid jump start button

There are some threads on the Ford Escape Hybrid jump start function making for additional reading for the user that could be helpful for background and alternative solutions if you can get past the drama in the first thread.

Accessing the Jump Start Button

Open the access panel in the driver side foot well.

Cross Charging Solution

If you recently replaced the car’s 12V battery, there is a higher chance that the 330V HV battery has low charge.

  1. Remove the key from the ignition.
  2. Open the driver’s door and then close it.
  3. Open the access panel in the driver side foot well.
  4. Press the jump start button. The LED on the button should blink slowly.
  5. Wait 8 minutes.
  6. Insert key into ignition.
  7. Turn key in ignition and hold for ~5 seconds.

If the vehicle starts, drive around a bit to charge the HV battery.

If the vehicle does not start, the 330V battery voltage may be so low that one eight minute charge cycle did not provide enough power for starting purposes.

Depending on how confident you are in the power level of the 12V battery, you can try pressing the jump start button again and repeating the steps. However at this point, you risk draining the 12V battery and ending up with two discharged batteries. It may be time to use “shore power” to provide the power to charge the HV battery.

Shore Power HV Battery Cross Charging and Jump Start

An external 12V power source will be used to charge the 330V battery and bring it up to the needed voltage.

Hooking up an external 12V power source to the 12V battery will supplement the 12V battery power and provide power during the eight minute jump start button charge cycle.

Connect a wall powered 12V battery charger (or another running vehicle’s 12V battery) to the Ford Escape Hybrid’s 12V car battery. If possible, set the current setting on the charger to 10A or lower. A lower current setting than the typical 50A jumpstart will allow a persistent power flow to the 330V battery through the 12V battery.

Since most chargers and household outlets are rated at 120W or 10A of power output a higher current jumpstart mode results in the charger saving power in a capacitor to deliver 50A+ at once. You don’t want this mode, since the charger may not output consistent power.

12V charger
An example of a 12V charger that works for cross charging the batteries.

The shore power cross-charging setup is below:

12V charger -> 12V car battery -> jump start cross-charger -> 330V hybrid battery

The combined steps are below:

  1. Remove the key from the ignition.
  2. Open the driver’s door and then close it.
  3. Open the access panel in the driver side foot well.
  4. Connect a wall powered 12V battery charger to the 12V car battery.
  5. Set the battery charger to 10A mode.
  6. Verify that the voltage reading on the charger is at 12V or in the green zone. This will show the voltage of the 12V car battery which should be near full voltage.
  7. Press the jump start button. The LED on the button should blink slowly.
  8. Verify that the voltage reading on the charger is lowered due to the power flowing into the 330V battery. The voltage shown on the charger may drop down to 0 which is expected since the 330V battery is consuming all the charging power and no power is flowing backwards the positive side from the 12V car battery.
  9. Wait 10 minutes.
  10. Verify that the voltage reading on the charger is at 12V or in the green zone.
  11. If you think that the 330V battery has been charged long enough, proceed to the next step. Otherwise, go to step 6. The number of charge cycles needed depends on how many days or weeks the 330V battery has been discharging.
  12. Set the charger to 50A+ jumpstart mode if available.
  13. Insert key into ignition.
  14. Turn key in ignition and hold for ~5 seconds.

If the car starts, disconnect the battery charger from Ford Escape Hybrid car battery and drive the car around to charge the batteries more.

If the car still fails to start, the 330V or 12V batteries may have too low of a voltage and require additional voltage boosting with an external battery charger. You can do more jump start charge cycles and/or charge slower at the lower amp setting to protect battery health over a few hours or days. You will need to remember the press the jump start button to resume charging after 10 minutes (which is after previous charge cycle completes).

Finding Other Faults

Additionally, the vehicle batteries may not be the cause of the starting issue. Reading the vehicle’s trouble codes with an OBD scanner may reveal other problem preventing the vehicle’s start. No trouble codes were returned to my Ultragauge scanner when I encountered this low voltage issue.

How to Prevent Low Voltages in the Future

Drive the Ford Escape Hybrid regularly. Regularly means using the Escape as your daily driver for long drives.

To be establish a safe upper bound, regularly does not mean leaving the car unused for 2 weeks. Even 1 week of battery discharge is pushing it. The longer you let the car sit between use, the longer you need to drive it or cross-charge it to keep the battery voltage up.

You could replace the hybrid battery pack with a refurbished battery pack but the shipping and labor cost may not be economical for a 18 year old car. After all, no car lasts forever on original parts. The 1st generation Ford Escape Hybrid has lasted much longer than many other non-hybrid vehicles on the road so replacing and recycling the hybrid battery is an expected expense similar to a transmission or engine replacement that one may encounter for a non-hybrid vehicle of similar age and usage.

If you’re driving a 1st gen Ford Escape Hybrid in 2024, you probably paid it off or bought it cash. With preventative maintenance such as engine, eCVT transmission, PTU, and differential oil changes, a mechanically sound Ford Escape Hybrid may have a few hundred thousand more miles left in it at a rock bottom cost-of-ownership.

Ford Escape Hybrid Heaven (onto the 3rd owner)

This is likely my last Ford Escape Hybrid post. I recently purchased a Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid S AWD due to having less time to maintain and tinker with vehicles and wanting new quality of life features of adaptive cruise control and Carplay.

I previously added an AUX audio input to the Ford Escape Hybrid headunit in my Ford ACP AUX project. Basically my poor man’s substitute for Carplay.

Why didn’t I buy a new Ford vehicle?

I’m not impressed with the Bronco Sport after driving a rental on a road trip and Ford’s current hybrid/plug-in hybrid vehicles are nerfed to not include AWD or omit adaptive cruise and other safety features that should be standard in 2024. Other models I shopped for were the current hybrid Escape (ugly compared to Bronco, no plug-in AWD) and Maverick (markups or long wait, no hybrid AWD). Ford’s current 2024 models and trims are just not cost or feature competitive with other manufacturers such as Subaru, Mazda, and Toyota.

Why didn’t I buy a Subaru or Mazda?

No reliable hybrid models avaiable at the end of 2023.

Why didn’t I buy a Toyota RAV4 hybrid?

I looked for a new car similar to the 1st gen Ford Escape size and all car models have been getting the supersize me diet since 2000. It was hard to find a RAV4 hybrid/prime with no markup. The Corolla Cross Hybrid had most of the features I wanted at a lower cost and still looks cool. The barebones S trim that I ultimately got reminds me of an older car or a work truck trim that still has analog dials and physical controls.

My yearly cost of ownership for the 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD over 7 years was roughly $1500-2000/yr. This number includes buying price + tax, selling price, maintenance, and upgrades. I only included cost for vehicle specific tools such as the oil filter wrench.

Anson Liu