Saturday, October 8, 2016 9:00 am ·  3 Comments
This was my first experience driving a “plug-in hybrid” and I admit to some initial skepticism about the combination of a hybrid with an available plug-in to recharge the battery. For those of us (me included) that have not yet made the leap to the all electric, plug-in hybrid or even just plain hybrid, a little background is helpful to understand the differences from our gasoline only cars.
A hybrid-electric car has both a gas engine and a battery-powered electric motor. When driving, your car automatically switches between the two. Finally, a plug-in hybrid is similar to the hybrid-electric, but with the option for you to plug in the car to charge the battery. At cruising speeds (city and highway) or shorter trips, you can drive in all-electric mode, meaning fewer trips to the pump to fuel that daily commute. Only a rechargeable battery driven electric motor powers an all-electric car. That means you don’t require a drop of gas to hit the road, and the car produces zero CO2 emissions. All these vehicles use regenerative braking, a technology that captures energy from the wheels when the brakes are applied. The electric motor continues to spin even as the car slows down and regenerative braking captures this wasted energy and uses the motor to generate electricity to recharge the battery. The hybrid and plug-in hybrid also use the mechanical energy generated by the gas engine to recharge the battery. Finally, all-electric and hybrid plug-in cars also recharge the battery using charging stations. This is of course the only option for the all-electric car.
The Fusion Energi is a plug-in hybrid with a front wheel drive powertrain. Like the Fusion hybrid, it comes with a 141-hp 2.0 liter four cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine and a 118-hp electric motor combining to give you a total of 188 horsepower. Unlike the Fusion hybrid’s 1.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that works in combination with the gasoline engine to reduce fuel consumption, the Energi model comes with a rechargeable 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that also lets you drive roughly 35 km without using a drop of gas – and you can plug it in to your household current to recharge the battery. If you remember to plug in often and only drive short distances and in a non-aggressive manner, you will achieve astounding fuel economy. (2.4 L/100 km equivalent combined gas and electric 5.6 L/100 km combined gas only).
However, if you are a more aggressive driver or tend to drive longer distances, there will be little difference in fuel economy compared to a regular Fusion hybrid.
Driving and handling characteristics
The Fusion Energi is a heavy car weighing almost two tons which, when combined with only 188 hp, is not a jackrabbit from a starting position. Expect it to take about 15 seconds to reach the 100 km per hr speed. Having said that, if you are a calm driver, the Energi is an exceptionally smooth and delightful driving car. The silent electric only operation is wonderful and even the transition to the gasoline powered engine is so smooth, it is hard to notice when that happens. Steering and braking feels completely normal with good road feel. Driving this car more aggressively highlights a couple of things. First, the car comes equipped with tires that reduce rolling resistance to improve fuel economy. Quick steering maneuvers during cornering or lane changes will cause the car’s stability system to activate as the tires fight for grip. Secondly, the limited horsepower combined with the weight of the car increases the distance needed to execute safe passing against oncoming traffic.
Comfort and Styling
The Energi Platinum is at the top of the Fusion line and comes fully equipped as a comfortable and luxury vehicle. Starting with the premium leather heated and cooled 10-way power driver and passenger seats, you also get the leather wrapped and stitched instrument panel, leather wrapped door and console armrests that complete the luxury feel. Of course the steering wheel is also leather wrapped and heated. Rear passengers get A/C and heat vents as they recline on fold down 60/40 split seat backs – in premium leather of course.
This Ford’s entertainment system includes the Sony 22 speaker audio system, Sync3, SiriusXM satellite radio and a voice activated navigation system. My prior reviews of various Ford 2016 models with this entertainment system ranked it among the best.
As far as looks are concerned, this is a classy car. Nice lines combined with a very pleasant interior. You will definitely have fewer visits to the gas station but to take full advantage of the rechargeable plug-in battery, you will need to plug it in on a daily basis. The car is equipped with a 120V charge cord that can plug into your regular wall socket providing a full charge in about 7 hours. There are available options such as a 240V charger that will reduce recharge time to around 3-4 hours.
Ford has done a very good job with their safety and “convenience” features and the Energi Platinum has just about everything as standard equipment. Approaching the vehicle, you can remotely start it with the keyless entry fob or use the push button start. On the road, you have a lane keeping system, intelligent cruise control, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, parking assist, tire pressure monitoring, stability control, brake assist and electric parking brake to mention just a few. Of course, the car is also equipped with the full array of air bags and monitoring systems to help ensure personal safety.
Things to consider
The Ford Fusion Energi has been around since 2013 and so many of the “bugs” that may have existed in the initial years are more than likely worked out. From a style and comfort standpoint, this is a very pleasant vehicle. The real question on choice between the Fusion Hybrid and the Fusion Energi comes down to driving style and personal habit. To take full advantage of the Energi, you need to take many shorter trips and plug the car in. If you don’t plug it in, you are basically driving a more expensive Fusion Hybrid. As a new “hybrid” and “plug-in electric” driver, I was pleasantly surprised and expect that these vehicles will become more of the norm in the very near future. My next non-“sports car” will most likely be a hybrid or an all electric. Watch for my review of the 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid in the coming weeks.