At Ford’s Drive Green Forum in New York City recently, Triple Pundit got a first-hand look at the company’s new electric vehicle offerings. I took the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and the 2011 Ford all electric vehicle for a brief test drive. Both cars are part of Ford’s new electrification strategy for improving emissions and reducing oil consumption.
In terms of eco-performance and smart driver interaction experience, either of these vehicles could take the famed “Prius-Killler” title.
First, let’s look at fuel economy and energy usage. The Ford Fusion Hybrid gets 41 mpg in the city. Ford reports that this is “70 percent better than comparable non-hybrid models and 8 mpg better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid.”
The Ford all electric vehicle (no specific name has yet been given for the car) uses a high voltage electric motor and lithium-ion battery that is expected to get 100 miles per charge. Charging time for their test vehicle is 12 hours from a 110-volt and 6 hours from a 220-volt outlet.
What makes these cars especially exciting is Ford’s “Eco-Gauge” digital dashboard. Drivers can increase the energy efficiency of their cars by following cues from the ”Eco-Gauge.” Through strategic braking and steady acceleration, drivers can increase the amount of electricity used from regenerative braking. When drivers maximize their eco-performance, a tree on the readout grows leaves.
I found the “Eco-Gauge” driving experience challenging and fun. In the few short blocks of mid-afternoon stop-and-go traffic, I learned how to drive more efficiently and expressed delight in watching the leaves blossom on my tree. My driving coach, Praveen Cherian (Ford’s Leader of Hybrid Programs), told me that he has been able to increase overall fuel economy to about 70 mpg when maximizing energy efficiency in this way.
Driving the Ford’s all electric model was equally pleasant. While other electric vehicle car makers may be aiming for sleek styling and high-range performance, Ford appears to be taking a different approach. In fact, Ford’s all electric car felt pretty conventional. In their test model, they used a Ford Focus body and replaced it with an electric drivetrain and motor. Simple as that. They are targeting the vehicle towards customers with “shorter, predictable daily trips of less than 100 miles total” and plan to price it affordably.
For drivers and fleet managers looking to increase their eco-cred and save at the pump, either of these models are definitely worth considering.