Trade the Focus Electric for a Fusion Energi?

4 years ago by Marc Lee 20

Can't Choose Between the Fusion Energi and Focus Electric? Take One of Each Like Leno! (jaylenosgarage.com)

As previously reported, the 2013 Focus Electric I purchased has been periodically kicking out a “Stop Safely Now” message.  Thankfully it likes to do this while sitting in the garage at home, and not out on the road somewhere.  Power cycling would clear the message out… eventually.  A small number of other cars are experiencing this phenomenon, and for those cars solutions were found.

In my case Ford replaced a cable, to no avail, and then the HV batteries and 12v battery, and it seemed to fix it, but then the message popped up once more.  So some slide rulers from Michigan came down and installed a “black box” or as they put it a “flight recorder” so that they can have all the data from the car at the exact moment the SSN message is generated.  In fact the flight recorder actually reports back via cellular modem in real time.

Predictably, since the flight recorder was installed no SSN message.  Rather like a failing appliance that behaves perfectly when the $75/ hour repair man is standing there waiting for you to demonstrate “the problem.”

 

How Do You Catch an Intermittent Problem? Install a Black Box errr Cardboard Box of Course!

Shortly after the flight recorder went in, Lynn from the Ford Executive Offices contacted me, and said that Ford would like to buy my Focus Electric back and build me another car.  She offered that I could get another Focus Electric or apply that value toward another model of my choosing.  First thought, “man I wish I hadn’t just spent 8 hours clay barring and waxing that car.”  Second thought, “that Fusion Energi is one sweet looking ride.”

I mean I wasn’t Jonesing for the Fusion Energi one bit, until that phone call, and suddenly I found myself wondering “how much gas would I burn in a Fusion Energi?”  Arrangements were made with Richmond Ford to swap the Focus Electric for a standard Fusion for a weekend test ride.  The Fusion Energi is not available just yet, so I was checking out a gasser just to get a sense of the space and feel of the car.

The Fusion is a mid-size car so there is significantly more room in the passenger areas compared to the Focus Electric.  The front seats only marginally so but the back seat in the Fusion has much more room.  According to the specs, five inches more.  Sometimes the specs for passenger areas seem to have no basis in reality.  In this case the specs don’t lie.

The footprint of the trunk on the Fusion is much larger than the Focus and yet because it is a sedan, not very accessible owing to the smaller opening.  Looking it over I thought wouldn’t it be cool if the glass and trunk lid open up like on a hatch.  You could have the look of a sedan with the ease of access of a hatch.  Apparently someone at Tesla had the same thought.

The Fusion Trunk Is Quite Deep But Getting To It All Would Be a Challenge (Photo © Aaron Gold)

The Fusion also has some gee whiz safety features like adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning and correction, but let’s remember why we are here… electric miles.

Sedan Look With Hatchback Access? No Problem for the Tesla Model S

The 21 mile electric range of the Fusion Energi may not sound like much, but given that I have charging available at home and work, and a commute of 13.7 miles one way, it stands to reason I could stay electric much of the time.  What’s a guy to do?

Ultimately I decided to stick with the Focus Electric.  First, we have an EREV at our disposal for longer trips if need be, the Volt.  Second, thanks to its 6.6 kWh charger you can put a ton of electric miles on the Focus Electric in a day.  I’ve done 170 electric miles in one day, this simply would not be possible with Fusion’s 21 mile range and slower 3.3 kWh charger.   Even with the Volt’s larger 40 miles range, 80 to 120 miles in a day is the most you can realistically expect to do on battery.  With the Focus Electric 200-250 in a day is very doable.

Sticking with the Focus Electric also eliminates completely any cost of engine maintenance.  Of course the trade off is range limitation and range anxiety, the latter of which I received a strong dose of when I took the Fusion loaner back up to Richmond Ford to swap it back for the Focus Electric.

I’ve made this 80 mile trip in the Focus four times previously with range to spare, but on this day the weather was cold (42f) and damp so I knew the range was going to be reduced.   I kept the speed to 45 mph to compensate.  When I started out it showed me being 8 miles short on range, and at one point it showed as much as 14 miles short.  I actually started thinking where can I stop and beg some juice.

About halfway it still showed me coming up short a few miles, so I reduced from 45 mph to 40 mph for a while, and slowly the gap came down and eventually I was on the plus side, but just barely. With 10 miles to go the low battery warning popped up.  I arrived home with one mile to spare.  I wondered if it was really was that close, so I cranked the heat up to max to see how long it could go.  Not long.  Just a handful of minutes and up came “Battery Depleted, Stop Safely Now.”

When You See This You Better Be Close To Your Destination

The takeaway here is that the “fuel” gauge on the Focus Electric is very good.  Of course on a full or nearly full battery it struggles to predict how far you are going to go because there are just too many unknown variables, but as you get into the lower half of the battery it does a good job of dialing in the range, hopefully I won’t be testing its predictive powers any time soon.

If we didn’t already have a Volt,  the Fusion Energi would be very tempting, but once you have a EREV in your fleet, a zero gas/zero emission vehicle like the FFE is the next logical step.

 

 

 

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20 responses to "Trade the Focus Electric for a Fusion Energi?"

  1. Anton Wahlman says:

    Why not the C-Max Energi? It’s the same drivetrain as the Fusion Energi, but in a wagon body — and available 2-3 months earlier.

  2. vdiv says:

    Marc,
    Seems like you’ve made the right choice. The extra space in the Fusion may be enticing, but ultimately is not really needed most of the time. Having driven a Focus Electric for about 5 minutes I would also venture a guess that it has a better handling and feel than what the Fusion Energi will offer. Lastly, your logical conclusion is correct. The only way forward is all-elecrtic.

    1. Marc Lee says:

      Definitely a different handling. Focus, sporty and tight, Fusion softer but precise. Handling not a deal maker/breaker for me in any way.

      If batteries improve at the rate they appear to be going, AND AND AND automakers make these upgraded batteries backwards compatible then yes I think BEVs will have quite a useful life.

      When I look around at the EV conversions, those things last a very long time, only the batteries need replacing. If homemade jobs can last forever, certainly the like of Ford, Nissan and GM can make them last a very long time.

      1. vdiv says:

        Home conversions often use DC motors that require new brushes after some miles. Also they have the challenge of keeping the electrics dry and all things metal corrosion free. Many have been modified and added to over and over. So yes, considering all this, EVs can last a long time, and factory-made ones (if properly so) even longer.

  3. Marc Lee says:

    Anton you’ve cut right to the heart of the matter, and in the process force me to make an admission I was seeking to avoid. I simply do not like the look of CMAX.

    Which is silly because it offers a much more spacious feel, easier passenger ingress/egress and the cargo is much more useful and accessible. Clearly if the looks do not matter the CMAX has much to offer. Although I believe the Fusion does offer greater leg room in the back seat, which might be an issue if you regularly haul adults in the backseat.

    Of course ultimately the reason I stuck with the FFE is because greater electric range and faster charging and we already have the Volt and a minivan. A BEV CMAX, hmm I might have a real quandary then.

  4. GeorgeS says:

    Another good article Mark. Personally I’m glad you stayed with the Focus. Sounds like a nice car and it’s good Ford has gone the distance and both put their best techs on the problem AND even offered to buy it back!

    1. Marc Lee says:

      Absolutely George, Ford and the dealer are standing behind the car, which to hear my Ford buddies tell it, is not how they were in the not so distant past. Glad they are seeing the customer service light.

  5. Wood Foss says:

    HI Marc,
    Good reporting… I was driving to work today and thinking about calling you when “pop” on my RSS feeds comes your article.

    I appreciate the leap of conversation between your options, your thinking and your final decision. I am so grateful Ford is standing up to customer service. In my case I have been without… Wait before I say this and let me “Knock on Wood!!!”. I have been without major problems. My 2012 has been free of any problems and I have now driven 8200 miles, gasoline free. It fits my auto life style perfectly. I also have an alternative vehicle for the 5-6 time per year I need more than 80+ miles of driving.

    At this point you may be a little gun shy of the FFE. But, if you they build you a new one and it is built properly, you will drive trouble free. My car has been awesome. Believe it or not the only thing I have done to my auto is replace the windshield wiper blades, which streaked on my way home from the dealership…..

    Good luck Marc and keep writing for us…..

    Wood Foss

    1. Marc Lee says:

      8200 miles…Wood you must be the mileage king on the FFE. Luckily for me the FFE has not stranded me and the dealer has been very good about providing a loaner. Since the last go round the car has not kick out the SSN message so I am starting to think they have it licked. But still I am glad to exchange cars because something about a field swap of the HV batteries gives me pause for concern.

      “Believe it or not the only thing I have done to my auto is replace the windshield wiper blades, which streaked on my way home from the dealership…..”

      I totally believe it. That’s the little secret of BEVs that many people don’t get. The maintenance is absolutely minimal. If you know how to rotate tires and change blades you may forget where your dealer is located. And don’t think dealers aren’t thinking “where is the service revenue on these BEVs?”

      Swapping out coolant is the about the only regular maintenance item. With regen brakes will go for a very long time.

  6. GeorgeS says:

    Marc,
    Are you getting a new FE or keeping the original one??

    1. Jason says:

      He should get them to replace it with a Fusion Energi next year, then he gets to claim his $7,500 credit on the Focus Electric, and gets another $8,000 back in cash or credit on the difference between the cars, and gets another $3,750 next year on his taxes.

      $19,250 off a Fusion Energi and he got to have a Focus Electric for half a year for free.

      1. Marc Lee says:

        Interesting thought Jason. Actually there is no restriction on buying an EV getting credit, selling it and then buying another in the same year. The assumption is that if you sold your vehicle the new buyer would obviously want to pay at least $7500 less to cover the tax credit they are not eligible for.

        The other issue is that the first EV will probably bump you into AMT territory, at least that’s what the Volt did for me. You’ve got to have one heck of a tax liability to take down two credits in one year without getting bumped to AMT.

        Some of have written than you can carry forward unused tax credits to the next year, but I am not sure if that has been IRS tested and approved.

        Also the agreement from Ford stipulates I must get a vehicle of equal or greater value so not sure what would happen if I had decided on the Fusion Energi.

        But I am interested about what is done if anything with the tax credit on the new FFE. The manufacturer can’t use it. It does not appear that the dealer can use tax credit. If I was able to hold off delivery until Jan 2013 that might be interesting… anyone out there know how this should work?

  7. WhitGallman says:

    I had that Stop Safely Now light come on early on in my ownership but not lately.
    I recently had the fully charged range start to diminish, down to 58 miles one morning.
    There is a Tech Service Bulletin out that reflashes the BECM, PCM and ABS computers. This seemed to fix my diminishing range. OUTOFGAS is now charging to 80 miles range again.

    Tsb 12-08-20 – reduced driving range, intermittent no start or no high voltage battery charging

    1. Marc Lee says:

      Whit that is very interesting because an issue with the BECM on the upper HV battery pack was the reason give for swappping out the HV batteries. Are those TSB available for public consumption somewhere?

  8. DocDragon says:

    Marc,

    Thanks for a great article!

    Question about the Fusion Energi: Can you drive solely on electric until the battery depletes (like the Volt) or does the ICE (internal combustion engine) kick in as soon as you require some torque? The latter is something that bugs me on my Prius V: going even slightly uphill will turn on the ICE unless I allow the car to come to a crawl to maximize battery use, which undoubtedly would provoke some single-finger greetings…

    1. Marc Lee says:

      “Can you drive solely on electric until the battery depletes (like the Volt) or does the ICE (internal combustion engine) kick in as soon as you require some torque?”

      Reports are that the Fusion Energi can go up to 85 mph on battery only. So in this regard it is more like the Volt in that you have the capability of a true electric only range.

      And yes part of the appeal of the Volt and presumably the Energi cars is having all that electric torque available from the get go. A much more rewarding launch experience than is available for example on the Prius.

  9. Stuart22 says:

    Maybe this is but one of a few problems that have surfaced, all which might explain why Ford has been so noncommittal about selling the FFE. Perhaps it has to do with the fact they farmed out development of the FFE to an outside source, and in so doing, lost control over the testing/vetting process ——-> causing uncertainty about product reliability ——-> concern for their reputation ——–> scaled down, careful marketing approach.

    Ford’s decision to go the range extended route with the Energi has to figure in. The Energi is different from the FFE in that it’s development was in-house which should put them in a position to be more confident to hit the ground running with it.

    I don’t think Ford sees their customers as beta testers, and certainly doesn’t want to have a dark cloud over their heads from FFE problems when the Energis show up on dealer lots.

  10. evnow says:

    Interesting read.

    Unfortunately, I’ve not had any drama in my 20 months of Leaf ownership. I’ve toyed with the idea of replacing it though – but with 2012 Leaf at a lower rate.

    1. Marc Lee says:

      If I were going to stick with the LEAF I would definitely hold out for the 6.6 kWh charger, but then I guess it really depends on your driving patterns.

  11. Ajay Chitnis says:

    Mark,
    Have you learnt anymore about the original “stop safely now” coupled with yellow wrench icon that you wrote about earlier. My new ford focus (purchased on Feb 15 2013) started having this problem about 3 days ago. Like you, so far I have only seen it when I am starting the car, not while it’s in motion. Also it usuallly goes away after some repeated cycles of turning the car off and on, opening and closing the door, though I have not quite figured which of these sequence of actions actually provides the magic result.
    This has been a bummer as I really am enjoying the car very much, otherwise. I thought it might be some inconsequential thing that will go away but the number of postings about this is alarming given the relatively small number of units of this car sold so far. The number of reports probably adds up to a sigificant percentage of the cars. Would’nt one expect some official response from Ford at this point. Should’nt we be requiring one?