Ford plans to equip 80 to 90 percent of its lineup with electric power steering by 2012. Replacing hydraulic power steering with an electric unit requires less power from the engine and could increase fuel economy by one mile per gallon.
Aside from the potential gains in fuel economy, the electric power steering units take up less space under the hood and allow for tighter packaging. Losing the mechanically-driven pump also means one less pulley, making serpentine belt changes that much easier. Plus it won't need power steering hoses or fluid.
A potential benefit of the switch to electric power steering is adjustable steering effort. Many enthusiasts dislike the feel of electric power steering compared with that of a traditional hydraulic power steering system. In the future, it may be possible for individuals to dial in the exact amount of weight they want in the steering. A self-park feature, like that of the Lexus LS460 and LS600h, could become more common with the increased usage of electric power steering.
Currently the 2008 Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner, and Mazda Tribute triplets use Ford's electric power steering system on both regular and hybrid models. Expect to see the 2009 Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln MKZ adopt electric power steering next.