I recently had the opportunity to attend a Ford Canada event featuring a Ford researcher from Detroit. She presented on the sustainability projects Ford is working on – things like using scrap denim in the ceiling of cars, using soybean-based foam in seats, and using dandelions as an alternative to natural rubber. Then we were treated to a four-course meal featuring the same products the researchers are working with! It was delicious and the chef at EDNA did a great job with the challenge.
The door prize for this event was a gift certificate to EDNA to come back and try more of their amazing food…. and a chance to drive a 2014 Ford Focus Electric car for the weekend. And I was the lucky winner! Although I am far from a car expert, I had a great experience driving this car and thought I would share.
The car – a beautiful electric blue, appropriately enough – was dropped off to me on Friday afternoon. I drove it through rush hour traffic to my softball game, and loved the initial experience. I already drive and love a 2013 Focus, and in many ways it felt like driving my own car. Well, a much smarter, cooler, quieter, genius younger cousin of my car, let’s say! Things I like about my own car, like the extra blind spot mirrors on the side mirror, are still there in this version. It’s a small thing but being used to using it, I was glad it carried over to the newer model.
On the way home from the game, I started to really pay attention to the battery consumption and how to recover some of that energy by braking. There’s a braking coach that tells you what percentage of the possible energy you are recapturing with your braking. Basically, it encourages you to brake slower instead of slamming on the brakes at red lights – which is better for your car anyway! By braking properly and recovering an average of 95%, I was able to make the 15 km drive while only using up a net 3-4 km worth of battery charge. This is a really neat function, and the coach feature adds an element of gamification to the driving experience too.
When I got home, I pulled into my driveway, got out the power cord from the trunk, and discovered it was about 2 feet too short to reach my outside plug perfectly. Ah well – that’s what extension cords are for! The outlet cover flips open with a push, and then when it’s plugged in it glows electric blue! I have to admit, I felt very cool having a car plugged in in my driveway.
The Sync feature on this car is much more advanced than the one in my own Focus. There is a touch screen in the centre of the dashboard that knows traffic, nearby charging stations, driving statistics, how much charge your iPhone has, and even what street you are on! On the summary screen you can see what song is playing, see the dual temperature settings, find the outside temperature, see the street name and see what direction you are facing. The direction information is also shown next to the speedometer which is easier to look at when you’re driving. At one point it even displayed the speed limit for the stretch of road I was driving on.
One of the other neat features of the centre display is that as soon as you shift into reverse, the screen becomes a backup camera. I’ve never driven a car with a backup camera before, but it certainly adds another element of safety when driving in reverse! I’d love to have this on my next vehicle.
The picture at right is what it looked like as I was backing out of my driveway on Monday morning.
One thing that’s disappointing about the car is that it currently only has about a 100 km range, after which it requires 12 hours to fully charge. I would have loved to take it on a road trip down the South Shore of Nova Scotia – but it would have taken me three days! Hopefully as the technology advances they will be able to have a longer range. For now, though, this is an ideal commuter car. I could easily get to work and back on a charge (although driving on the highway for a few minutes with the heat on on a chilly May morning did use quite a bit of battery charge compared to stop-and-go driving where you can recharge by braking). With a workplace that could accommodate a car being plugged in, you’d easily be able to commute from half an hour outside the city and do some errands on the way home.
I ran some errands on Sunday, stopping at the grocery store. The trunk space on this model is pretty limited – in my current Focus hatchback I can put my two dogs comfortably in the back, but about half the trunk space in the electric model is taken up by the technology. However, there is definitely room for groceries.
I also had a chance to see ‘what the car could do’ – and it certainly likes to go! I had already been impressed by the acceleration from a stop from the first drive, but was also impressed by how easily it responded to my foot on the accelerator, comfortably climbing over 100 km/h.
I had a great weekend with this car and would love to drive one full time as my commuter vehicle. Thanks to Ford for giving me the chance to check it out! I drove the car to my office this morning and parked it beside my own car. Here are the “cousins” this morning before they came to take the electric vehicle back home: