2010 once seemed, like, way in the future, man. Hell, 2010 was best known as he far-off title year of a completely unnecessary Roy Scheider led sequel of Stanley Kubrick's 2001, which come to think of it wasn't all that prescient...unless HAL was somehow connected to Al-Qaeda...in which case 2010 must mean that the world's oil supply will be controlled by...John Lithgow?....Heavy, man. The future is now.

If that doesn't frighten you (and it really shouldn't considering its utter nonsense), the fact that we are only five years away from 2010 and we haven't made great strides in solving the impending oil crisis should. When a BP executive says 2010 is the tipping point, that's more than mildly disconcerting. Fortunately, help, in its earliest form, is on the way.

$20.10.

This was my total gas bill in the Ford Escape hybrid for a roughly 220-mile round-trip between New York City and Philadelphia plus some tooling around the respective cities. It was just over half a tank and the digital dashboard know-it-all told us we still had 150 miles to go.

$20.10. when the pump price was $2.45 a gallon.

The Escape was the first hybrid SUV and the first with four-wheel drive, which doesn't seem quite possible when the motor switches to electric and goes dead silent at a long stoplight. It's a full hybrid so it rotates between 100% electricity, 100% gas or some combo of the two. We tested the $30,175 version ($26,380 for the basic Escape) which features a digital screen hybrid flow chart that provides a mesmerizing kick following where the power's coming from right NOW! It also has a fuel readout that tracks the mpg; Ford says the Escape gets 36/31, although we averaged between 25-30.

The interior is run-of-the-mill, but what would be expected in its class. There is plenty of room in the Escape though, enough for my wife's righteous Target run and the sacks of laundry we washed at Mom's house no problem. (And for those of you outside of New York City snickering -- that means avoiding the laundromat for another two weeks). The Escape won't dazzle with its power, but the V-6 equivalent comfortably maintained 80 mph. The gauges were cool because they could be programmed to the metric system or in French, Spanish or German. You should have seen how kmpg we got. Oui, oui.

One might begin to think Ford sees the European marketplace as strong, but the company wouldn't be committed to four more hybrid models in the next three years if it didn't think Americans were getting on the green trolley. Ford is right to be proud, but here's hoping the FORD ESCAPE HYBRID label pasted across the windshield is optional. This isn't Nascar. Branding aside, I hope the Escape sells a ton, shakes off the company's junk sickness, and for God's sake, allows Henry Ford's great-grandson to feed his family.

P.S. In the May issue, we mentioned Thomas L. Friedman's "geo-green" idea to give free parking to all hybrid drivers. And guess who stepped into the ring? The Philadelphia Zoo where one Rocky Balboa proposed to one Adrian in front of Mr. Tiger, who is actually on hiatus until 2006. But don't let that stop you from driving your hybrid to the Philly Zoo and saving $10 on parking. And if anyone gives you any crap, tell 'em my cousin A.J. sent you.