This Is Not The Message You Want To See Pop Up In Your New Ford Focus Electric
Ford Focus owner Richard Spitz, MD has been looking to shine a light on a seemingly ongoing problem with the Focus Electric. Sudden and unexpected drive failure, and the "Stop Safely Now" warning.
UPDATE (Sept 10th, 2013): NHSTA has opened an investigation to instances of the Focus Electric stalling when in motion
Crated Replacement HV Batteries Waiting to be Installed In Marc Lee's Focus Electric (Kent Shockey)
Apparently, there are over 20 known complaints having to do with issue, and considering Ford has only sold 1,300-odd Focus Electrics, we feel the number of complaints is probably too many. So, when Richard reached out for some media assistance, we were glad to shine a light on it.
In fact, we are no stranger to this, as our own Marc Lee experienced the "Stop Safely Now" warning, and subsequent immobilization of his Focus Electrics...over 9 months ago on one of the first few Focus Electrics to be sold. You can read about his story "I Am The High Voltage Battery Killer" here.
Below is a copy of the letter sent to us from Mr. Spitz accounting his encounter with the problem, along with his interaction with the Focus Electric community and Ford:
In February I decided to take advantage of the aggressive leases being offered by Ford on the Focus Electric. The financing at that time was $199 a month which made it seem like the perfect around town vehicle.
At around 1100 miles I experienced what others have called the "stop safely now" warning. During rush hour, with both of my kids in the car, I came to a stop as the front most vehicle at a stoplight at a busy intersection. When the light turned green, I pressed down on the accelerator and nothing happened. I though what the...? Next thing I know, in addition to the other cars honking, a warning chime went off, a yellow wrench lit up on my dash alternating with a warning which said, "stop safely now." This wasn't much of an option as the car was in drive, I had no way to move it to park, and pressing the on/off did nothing. I noted that there was a warning icon listed on the car's system via the Ford sync. I sat there trying everything I could think of for several lights, really afraid we would be rear ended. Eventually hitting and holding the on/off button made the power cycle and power was restored, and I was able to drive. I called Ford and scheduled an appointment at the earliest.
At the car dealership they were unable to find an abnormal diagnostic code logged. I was told to come back if it re-occurred again. My dealership has extremely limited experience with EVs so I called Ford customer support and spoke with them, as well as they transferred me to the customer support at the EV division. They had no other suggestions on what to do.
I have since come to find out that my experience was not unique. Many other Focus EV drivers have experienced the "stop safely now" warning and loss of power, many after coming to a stop and others even while driving. There are currently 3 identical complaints on the NHTSA website (one is mine).
There are over many more which have reported this same error on Focus EV enthusiast sites, and even on the boards on Ford's own myfordmobile site. Here is an Excel spreadsheet (link removed due to traffic volume) made by one of the members from the myfocuselectric.com site which shows over 20 people that have had the same identical experience.
The reason I am so concerned about this is that I consider not having any power to avoid an accident is a real safety issue. The Ford Focus Electric is sold in extremely low volumes and the fact that so many owners are reporting the identical issue points to a singular defect. The fact that it is such a low volume vehicle could make the total number of incidents seem small compared to Fords high volume vehicles, but it is relatively large percentage of the total Focus Electrics. It seems that Ford is looking at each episode as an individual occurrence, rather than possible single issue.
I would greatly appreciate if you would consider looking into, or bringing this issue to light. I don't want to wait until a Ford Focus Electric owner looses all power on the highway, and someone gets really hurt. I want to do everything I can to make sure that Ford devotes the resources needed to isolate the problem down, even if there are not a lot of Ford Focus Electrics before that happens.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Richard Spitz MD
Ourselves, along with AutoBlogGreen, reached out to Ford about the issue before today, and this is what Amanda Zusman from Ford had to say to us:
"In regard to your note,the Stop Safely Now warning appears in the Focus Electric in lieu of the Check Engine light that is found in naturally-aspirated vehicles. As with all vehicles, there are a number of different reasons why this warning may illuminate. If a customer’s Check Engine or Stop Safely Now light illuminates, they should contact their dealer."
Ms. Zusman also added that she would pass this (or other) incidents along to Ford's engineering team if after taking the car in for service, he (or them) "are still concerned about his vehicle" for a follow-up.
If you are a Focus Electric owner, and have experienced this problem, you can forward your info (name and VIN) onto us here and we will advance it to Ford for you...or perhaps leave a note in the comments as Ms. Zusman says that she "reads InsideEVs daily," which was welcoming news to hear that Ford is actively taking the pulse of the EV community.