2013 Ford Fusion Energi test drive and new car review

25 Фев 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи 2013 Ford Fusion Energi test drive and new car review отключены
Ford Fusion Electric Cars

Plug it in and go

It’s common to see hybrid versions of popular sedans, but few offer a plug-in hybrid — a hybrid that can charge its battery from a standard electric-vehicle charger. Enter the Fusion Energi, the plug-in hybrid variant of Ford’s beautiful new mid-size sedan. Does the Fusion lose its charm when you plug it in?

Read on.

More happy gas, please

When Aaron reviewed the all new 2013 Ford Fusion at its launch a few months ago, he came away from his drive in a giddy state, saying that I began to wonder if I should look for the can of happy gas that Ford must have secreted away underneath the seat cushions. I was so impressed by the car that I seriously began to question my own judgment. Well, Aaron, I’ve just driven the latest iteration of the 2013 Ford Fusion, the plug-in hybrid Energi, and I was also impressed.

So, either we’ve both been gassed, or this is a very solid new entry into the mid-size sedan field.

The 2013 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium starts at $40,200 ($41,790 as tested, including destination and delivery), a price tag that can currently be offset by a Federal tax credit of $3,751. Several states, including California, Utah and Pennsylvania, offer State tax credits as well, and others offer exemption from insurance surcharges, sales tax and other benefits for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. (You can see a map of State and Federal incentives at the Plug In America web site.)

Energi vs. hybrid

2013 Ford Fusion Energi dashboard

Photo Jason Fogelson

The Fusion Energi differs from the Fusion Hybrid in a few ways. Most significantly, the Energi gets a different kind of lithium ion battery pack that is designed for quick power delivery and recharging. It also gets three EV (Electric Vehicle) modes, accessible via a center console-mounted button: EV Now; EV Auto; and EV Later.

Push the button until your desired mode is displayed on the instrument panel. EV Now forces the Energi to operate on battery power alone. EV Later conserves battery power, using the gasoline engine to propel the vehicle. EV Auto uses the car’s computers to switch between battery, gasoline, or a mix of both for the best guess at efficiency. Claimed electric-only range is 21 miles, but like fuel economy estimates, this is a guess: If you’re easy on the throttle, if you turn off all of the vehicle’s accessories and don’t use the climate control, you might be able to stretch your EV range beyond the estimate.

If you’ve got a heavy right foot and you like to run everything at full, you will not travel as far on electricity.

Charging time for the batteries depends on how much voltage you have available. On standard household current (110 volts), a full charge (from empty) takes about 7 hours. Install one of Ford’s dedicated 240-volt charging units (at a cost of about $2,500), and your Energi can go from … to fully alive in 2.5 hours.

Expect the same charging intervals at public charging stations. The charging port for the vehicle is on the left front fender, just behind the wheel well and ahead of the door. A ring of LED lights surrounds the port.

When the Energi is connected to power, the LEDs illuminate, indicating a positive connection. Then they resolve to a glow that reveals the battery pack’s state of charge — when all four quadrants of the LED ring are glowing, the battery pack is fully charged. Magic.

Driving the Energi also affects the state of charge. The gasoline engine drives the front wheels, but it also sends some current to the batteries. The brakes also serve to send energy to the batteries, recapturing energy from friction and turning in into storable electricity, rather than allowing the energy to dissipate as heat. Ford touts a very high rate of regenerative braking, up to 80% in most cases, and even up to 100% under extreme braking.

There are specific braking strategies that can result in better regeneration, and there’s even an app (of sorts) built into the car to help learn how to brake better.

Ford has developed and built its own transmission for the Energi, which it calls a hybrid transmission. This is unusual — transmissions are usually sourced from outside vendors. ZF is a name that you’ll see on many transmissions across a wide range of brands. The hybrid transmission is a electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT) that converts power from the 2.0-liter gas engine and the electric motor into rotation of the transaxle, turning the front wheels. Instead of stepped gears like a conventional transmission, it has a fixed planetary gear, and changes engine speed by adjusting the generator electric load.

The hybrid transmission differs from a conventional transmission in that it can accept input from both the gas engine and electric motor at the same time. The important thing to glean from this tech talk is that it works. The Energi starts out smoothly, accelerates briskly and switches back and forth from electric to gas to hybrid and back again transparently and without fuss or worry. Ford quotes a figure of 195 hp for the combined gas/electric powertrain. That feels about right.

It’s not enough power to turn the 3,913 lb Energi into a sports car, but it is enough to keep it from feeling sluggish.

The Fusion Energi gets a host of sophisticated technology in addition to its propulsion system. The base cars come with SYNC, MyFordTouch and MyFordMobile. SYNC is the Microsoft system that supports voice recognition and an integrated suite of vehicle controls.

MyFordTouch is a software overlay on SYNC, the now-familiar four square design on a center stack-mounted touchscreen display. MyFordMobile is a free app that owners can load on their smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers, providing remote access to many vehicle functions. MyFordMobile is especially useful for monitoring and managing the plug-in Energi’s state of charge.

Ford Fusion Electric Cars

The app duplicates in-dash functions, allowing you to schedule charging for off-peak hours when power is chepaer, schedule pre-conditioning of the vehicle (turning on the heated seats and warming up the vehicle on cold days, for instance), and checking the current level of charge.

Plug-in compromises

You don’t get something for nothing, so there are a few compromises forced on the Energi. The big battery pack takes up a lot of space in the trunk, leaving a tricky, narrow cargo compartment that’s smaller than the Hybrid’s 12.0 cubic foot space or the gasoline Fusion’s 16.0 cubic foot trunk. The back seat does fold down, so long narrow items like 2x4s and skis will fit, but don’t expect to get that big screen television home from the Best Buy, unless you’re willing to strap it to the roof.

There’s also a bit of a handling penalty for that weight in the rear, lending a heavy feeling to the steering at lower speeds.

I didn’t have the opportunity during my brief drive of the Energi to really put the car through its paces, but this is one mid-size sedan that feels big for its size. Weighing in a good 300 lbs heavier than the Hybrid and 400 lbs heavier than the Ecoboost Fusion has an effect. The extra weight is not a ride …, but it is definitely noticeable.

Ford figures that if you’re stepping up to a Fusion Energi, you want some high end features, so even the base model comes with heated leather seats and a good level of amenities. The Titanium model maxes out the packaging, with near-luxury features and technological add-ons. You’ll want to act quickly to secure those Federal and State tax credits and rebates, because there’s no guarantee that they’ll last forever.

In fact, many credits have scheduled sunset provisions, fading away over time as (presumably) the need to incentivize buyers to try out cutting edge technology goes away.

Competition is coming.

2013 Ford Fusion Energi engine bay

Photo Jason Fogelson

Expect lots of plug-in hybrids to start hitting the market soon. The first few, the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, have less passenger space than the Fusion Energi and operate with different technology, so it’s difficult to compare them directly. Next up on the docket is the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, which should be an interesting, more direct competitor for the Ford.

BMW, Hyundai and Toyota are not far behind with plug-in hybrid mid-size sedans, but there’s nothing you can buy in the US yet.

Ford Fusion Electric Cars
Ford Fusion Electric Cars
Ford Fusion Electric Cars
Ford Fusion Electric Cars
Ford Fusion Electric Cars
Ford Fusion Electric Cars

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