Sunday, August 12, 2012

Great focus of purpose at MD Volt meetup

The Meetup group for Volt drivers and other electric cars met a week ago at Fedex field.  The NRG Solar installation was the meetup point. What a great plan for folks to see how renewable power from the sun can power a stadium and electric cars to boot. Very cool.

A Ford Electric Focus was there too!  They gave out rides! I drove it - and was impressed. Here's my review on the EVA/DC site  :

Really appreciate Kristin and Ford letting us drive. First off – great car – puts all EV makers on notice if Ford produces these in quantity.
I own a Leaf – which I love – so I’ll contrast with it. To be honest I don’t see the Focus competing with the Tesla head on as those are pretty different price ranges. On the other hand it may convince someone considering the base S that there is another more reasonable alternative with style.
Console – Focus by a nose. While we didn’t get up quite the metered display I enjoy in the Leaf, there was a choice of reconfiguring displays nicely integrated into the instrument cluster. I prefer that to the ‘center square’ nav/energy display on the Leaf and others. Also looks at first glance very normal so not as off putting to a converted ICE driver.
Passenger Room – Leaf by a nose. Still I was impressed at 6 foot that I ,and even taller testers, were comfortable in the Focus. More then adequate for me though. Did not test the passenger area – again adequate but a little smaller. A couple of the even taller fellows may want to weigh in.
Styling – Focus by a head. Here trading a little head room gives a nice low slung styling the Leaf can’t hope to match. Sweet paint job and front grille. Cool ‘state of charge’ glow ring around the charge cap. Everyone liked that. Kind of European in look.
Acceleration and handling off the line. I think this is still the Leaf by a nose. Still the Focus has the similar instant giddyup we have come to love from our electrics. Very peppy, low center of gravity, handled very well. Did not take it out on the bigger stretch so can’t comment at higher speed. The ‘fun’ factor most of our electrics share is definitely there. Steering was responsive. Now the autocross will have to get run to determine a king of the hill – is it subjective that I think the Leaf is ahead? Only one way to tell – let the games begin!
Charging – Focus by a body length. 6.6kw is what Nissan should have put in the Leaf. Will it be there in 2013? Will it cost extra? For the moment this easily goes to the Ford Focus.
Trunk space – The Leaf by a head. Clearly part of the batteries and support electronics in the Focus have taken up the lower trunk area.
Range and efficiency – looks like a wash for the moment until we get better real world data.
Cooling. Head and Shoulders Focus. I dont have any info on electric load to heat and cool the cabin – that could be important to find out. However liquid cooling for batteries should favor the Focus especially in Southern States. Some Phoenix Leaf owners are already having battery issues only a year in and it appears soaking in 110-114 F and higher is not working well with air cooled batteries in the Leaf. Kind of frightening even for a Marylander as we’ve had a couple 105 days and with climate change more to come. Advantage Focus.
Price – Close. A little higher (2-3k) then the Leaf – until we see how dealers charge for these we really can’t tell. I would say like the Leaf they are definitely an alternative to Tesla for the budget minded – if one is will to give up the ‘Star Trek’ level features of the Tesla.
Manufacture – Focus by a nose. Nissan is opening the Smyrna, TN plant to their credit and making Leafs and batteries there. Ford however is the US automaker and that will undoubtably bring many looking for a US buy.
So my conclusion – I may keep my Leaf but I hope Nissan takes notice and steps up to the plate. If I was a younger buck the Focus styling would be the kicker – a very pretty car. A Mustang of EV’s perhaps?
Thanks again for the test ride.
Dave Glotfelty

One thing I noticed after I'd written this from pictures was the console does have a center screen I assume for navigation. It was off when I was driving but again my point would be that unlike the Leaf I could put more involved displays up in the center console - in the Leaf some alphanumeric stuff can be called up in the console but not the energy info display etc.

I should also say for me while I admire styling, space is much more important for me which the Leaf has. I also find entry and exit easy on the Leaf. Finally as I said the Leaf seemed a little peppier. i.e. I'm still a Leaf fan as for my favorite in that price range. Could be owner bias - grin!

However I think a younger person with less time to charge would have to go for the Focus. We'll see if that changes if the 2013 Leaf includes 6.6Kw charging. Would be nice...

What is exciting me here is Ford is totally in the game. Competitive maybe winningly so. Unlike Honda who looks like a winner then proceeds to make 300 a year and lease them. Or Toyota making a tepid Prius entry and then waving the big fib of hydrogen in 5 years. Yeah right - it doesn't make sense on the basic physics.  Tesla - in the game if only for the high end still.  GM(Volt), Nissan(Leaf), and now Ford(Focus) - in the game.  How could Honda and Toyota blow this? Well good - glad to see American companies leading again for a change.  That and the fact Nissan is building in this country really make Electric Vehicles a win for the US at this stage of the game.

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