Given all the negative press surrounding motor vehicles and their contribution to pollution in various forms, the reality is the automotive industry has come great distances with the emission output of vehicles. But the fact still remains that if a hydrocarbon-based fuel is burned, carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced. The more fuel a vehicle burns, such as is the case with a pick-up truck or sport utility vehicle, the more CO2 is produced. It has been well-documented that increased CO2 emissions do indeed lead to climate change.
Like all vehicle manufacturers, the Ford Motor Company has taken the reduction of CO2 seriously. Ford’s strategy includes changes in the manufacturing processes to reduce emissions caused by the building cars. But what has the company done so that the end user – drivers – can reduce environmental impact?
To address that very question, I recently had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by Ford. The cars featured were the Escape, Fusion, and Focus. Appropriately called the Power of Choice Tour, the customer now has various powertrain options to suit their needs. While I have been impressed with Ford’s Eco-Boost and hybrid offerings which offer some very neat and efficient power plant choices, it was the “CO2 Free” Focus Electric that I came to see and test drive.
The first thing that I noticed about the Focus was its styling. I genuinely liked the lines of this car. As is the norm for current Ford vehicles, the paint was flawless, and the interior shows a very nice level of fit and finish.
Once I figured out how to “start” the 143-hp electric motor, getting underway was as simple as putting the “transmission” into gear with a conventional shifter. Power delivery is instantaneous, and I found the low end torque made the car pleasant to drive – it felt like the Focus was powered by a torquey V-6.
The shifter has two positions – Low and Drive. Given this is an electric car and there is no transmission, I was curious as to what exactlyLowRangemeant. I soon discovered that when the driver backs off the throttle, the regenerative battery charging system comes into play and so the engine braking feel is achieved. I found LowRangeto be useful and practical, and it provided exactly the same feel as a conventional powertrain.
Speaking of charging the battery, the braking system also contributes to battery charging upon use, and a hydraulic system supplements the regenerative system to ensure the car will always stop.
For the technology aficionado, there is a MyFord app that can help manage the electric Focus. As one example, if the driver wants to have the vehicle’s interior temperature moderated in anticipation of a drive on a summer’s day, it is a simply a matter of contacting the car, and requesting this operation. These heat / cool options are designed to work if the vehicle is plugged in, with the theory being that using straight battery power to pre-heat or pre-cool the interior would reduce the driving range.
Gizmology aside, I felt very comfortable behind the wheel, and if I didn’t know the technology behind this car, I would swear it was powered by a tasty internal combustion engine, muffled by some hi-tech insulating materials, coupled to a smooth as silk automatic transmission. The only noise came from the tires. Ford also did a stellar job with the suspension of this car – responsive and tight, but not too firm – just the way I like it. I felt like I could jump in this car, drive to the coast, and be without fatigue at the end of the day.
Then reality hit. This car is powered by a 23 kWh lithium-ion battery, which gives an average range of 160 KM. So, the coast was not going to happen. But this car was never meant for extended highways drives, and the engineers knew this going into the project. There have been great strides in battery technology, and the lithium ion design provides a good power density for the weight ratio. More range means more weight in the vehicle and more expense.
For many people a vehicle with a relatively short range is not an issue. Drive it to work, run a few errands, drive it home, plug it in. It is for these people the car is designed, and for this purpose the Focus will shine.