EVLN: Inexperienced pro-EV-writer fails self on Focus-EV-trip dare

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EVLN: Inexperienced pro-EV-writer fails self on Focus-EV-trip dare

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Trundling-ashamed+nervous-inexperience chose to ice-drive back home

% Writers should never take a trip until they are experienced drivers: do not select L2-only EVs for unplanned long trips (though there was plenty of public EVSE to stop-n-use), do not use an automaker's on-board EVSE-nav system, use plugshare.com or afdc.energy.gov , drive a constant-60mph on the 1st trip to overcome self-imposed fears (mentally plan trip in-advance), etc. %

On Wheels: The 2014 Ford Focus Electric, taking you only so far
By Warren Brown Columnist October 17 2014

The Ford Focus Electric is intended for around-town use. (Ford Motor Co. / )

ROSEDALE, Md. — I drove here on a dare — 6.8 miles northeast of Baltimore, 51.4 miles north of my home in Arlington, Va., according to my MapsGalaxy app.

A precise knowledge of driving distance was essential, as was made clear by a question on the MyFord Touch screen of the 2014 Ford Focus Electric: “Will you recharge at destination?” It was a polite version of: “Don’t try to drive back home without first recharging this car’s lithium-ion battery pack. You won’t make it.”

Therein was the essence of the dare, and one of the major impediments to public acceptance of all-electric cars. It’s called “range anxiety.”

The dare was put to me jokingly by an employee of the car-delivery company, Event Solutions International, whose East Coast offices are in Rosedale. The company was holding an open house. “So I guess you’ll drive the Focus to the party?” the delivery man asked mischievously upon parking another vehicle in my Arlington driveway.

I immediately said, “No!” Drive a little electric car along Interstate 95 heading north in midday traffic? “Are you nuts?”

He smiled at my hypocrisy. I am a longtime proponent of electric vehicles. They reduce fossil-fuel consumption and air pollution. Yet, faced with a 50-mile drive on a high-speed highway, I was backing out. And didn’t the man who brought me the car make the same drive south to my home on the same interstate under the same conditions?

I felt ashamed. I plugged the Focus Electric into my 120-volt “slow-charge” home charging station. “Slow” means 20 hours to get the battery pack up to full capacity, a 91-mile range on the car’s charge meter. But I couldn’t tell whether that reading was a sly promotion built in by Ford’s marketing people. The Environmental Protection Agency says the Focus Electric has a 76-mile driving range fully charged. A “quick-charge” 240-volt home charging station offered by AeroVironment would yield the EPA’s full-charge range in three to four hours.

With 91 miles showing on the charge meter, I set out for Rosedale. I was cautious— I drove with no radio, no air conditioning, nothing that would drain battery life. The Focus Electric is engineered to run at a top speed of 84 mph. But the faster you go, the more battery juice you use. And the car is equipped with regenerative braking, a system that uses braking energy to support the battery charge. Still, I decided to religiously adhere to a 65-mph speed limit.

That wasn’t easy. I-95 is a playground for speed scofflaws and law enforcement officials alike. The scofflaws enjoy exceeding posted speed limits by at least 10 mph. Police enjoy snagging the really egregious speeders, or those speeding in cars whose exterior designs are so outrageously flamboyant they practically beg to be ticketed.

Trundling along at 65 gets you no love from the police and no respect from the speeders. You’re in everybody’s way, gumming up the catch-me-if-you-can game, which both sides seem to enjoy.

I slowpoked in the right and middle lanes, keeping a keen eye on the charge meter, which had dropped to 40 miles remaining by the time I got to Baltimore. The mathematics didn’t make sense. I had figured I’d have at least 60 miles left at that point. But there it was — 40 miles and dropping rapidly.

I grew nervous, hoping the onboard navigation system was on target as it guided me into the Baltimore suburb of Rosedale. My anxiousness was increased by the growing choppiness of the car’s acceleration. The battery pack made handling was less than desirable, too.

But the navigation worked perfectly. I arrived at ESI with 30 miles left on the charge meter. I thought myself the hero until I was let in on the real joke: I had been set up. My ego overrode my common sense, and I fell for the ploy.

“Warren,” said my ESI delivery man, “you do know that the Focus Electric is just a neighborhood car, don’t you?” As in not really meant for highways such as I-95, as in does well in acutely local travel, as in I could run around Arlington endlessly — driving by day and charging by night — without burning an ounce of gasoline.

Yeah, I knew that — which is why I chose a gasoline-fueled 2015 Jeep Compass to drive back home.

Nuts & Bolts
2014 Ford Focus Electric

Bottom line: All-electric models such as the Focus and the Nissan Leaf are primarily neighborhood cars, meant to deliver good gasoline-free service within 40 to 90 miles, the average daily driving range for most of us. An exception is the full-size Tesla S, which has a 265-mile range fully charged. But acceptance of these cars is hampered by price: They tend to cost considerably more than their fossil-fuel counterparts.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Ride is labored on the highway, where you are constantly mindful of the weight of that battery pack. It’s better in town, where lower speeds seem to mitigate, or work better with, weight. Acceleration and handling are mediocre on the highway, much improved in town.

Head-turning quotient: The Focus Electric looks like any other Focus — pleasantly conservative, the kind of car you’ll find in a church or school parking lot.

Body style/layout: The 2014 Focus Electric remains unchanged from the model introduced in 2013. It is a compact, four-door, all-electric sedan with a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack located near the rear. It has front-wheel drive.

Power system: The lithium-ion battery pack yields the gasoline-engine equivalent of 143 horsepower. Power is transmitted to the front wheels via a one-speed direct-drive transmission.

Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 14.5 cubic feet; it is 44.8 cubic feet with all seats folded.

Mileage: Ford’s marketers define “fully charged” for the Focus Electric as a range of 91 to 98 miles. The Environmental Protection Agency puts it at 76 miles.

Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; electronic brake-force distribution; stability and traction control; xenon high-intensity-discharge headlamps; and side and head air bags.

Prices: Ford lowered the price on the Focus Electric by about $4,000 from 2013 to 2014 — it now starts at $35,170. Pricing may be mitigated by available tax rebates. Check with your tax consultant. Financially, gasoline-fueled Focus models are still a much better deal.
[© washingtonpost.com]
Neighbourhood amigo
Warren Brown  Washington Post-Bloomberg
Plenty of public L2 6kW EVSE between Arlington, VA and Baltimore, MD

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