The spy photo of the 2010 Ford Taurus which were so fleetingly displayed today (and which will live on in RSS readers everywhere) got the old gears turning back to memories of 1996. Ford made huge waves at the Detroit Auto Show that year with the Synergy 2010, a peek at the future of automobiles. It was "equipped" with a 1.0-liter diesel engine, advanced communication systems, super lightweight materials and state-of-the-art aerodynamics. The car was a design concept exploring ways to carry four passengers safely while returning an astonishing 80 MPG in the year 2010.
All of this begs to question — where did the Synergy go? At the time, Ford partnered with GM and Chrysler in a program called "The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicle." The threesome's aim was to deliver an 80 MPG four-passenger car. The program was funded and coordinated through the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR), beginning its quest for the next big thing in 1993. During the course of the project, running cars were created by each automaker; the Ford Prodigy, the GM Precept, and the Chrysler ESX-3, all of which had astonishing fuel economy and the safety features necessary to maintain road worthiness
As early as 2000, the automakers began lobbying for the end of the program, after seeing substantial improvements in the areas of low friction material, powertrain hybridization, and fuel cells. In 2001 the program was canceled and the assets were shifted to the "FreedomCAR" program, which while still in existence, has much more nebulous goals and equally unclear time lines.
Considering the 2010 Ford Taurus we may or may not have seen earlier falls into the targeted range of model years for the PNGV program and it probably rests on some level of taxpayer funded research, we wonder if it will indeed safely seat four passengers and return 80 MPG. We're not holding our breath.