Honda Fit EV Test Drive

This week was the Washington DC Auto Show. One day before the show opens to the IMG_20130131_152255public they have Public Policy/Press days which as an exhibitor I got to attend. Upon arriving for press day I spotted a blue Honda Fit that I knew immediately had to be the Fit EV. I also knew they usually give test drives during press day so I eagerly headed to the Honda booth to inquire about a test drive. Sure enough they were offering test drives and I was going to be the first person of the day to drive it, which was a little disconcerting since it was already 3 o’clock, how could I be the first! I also soon found out that I would graciously be behind the wheel of the ONLY Fit EV on the East Coast!

Unique EV Features in the Fit

IMG_20130131_151939I hopped straight in and took a moment to figure out every little feature that the Fit offered. One of the first and most important things you will notice when behind the wheel is that the Fit EV offers 3 different driving modes. These are located on the left side of the dash near the base of the steering column.  The first mode is sport mode and it will tell the vehicle controller to provide more current to the motor for faster acceleration. The second mode is normal that is a balanced mode. The third mode is an Econ mode that tells the controller to conserve the most power by limiting the current to the motor so that acceleration is much slower but the benefit of this mode is that it will extend the driving range of the vehicle.  I could see myself switching between these modes at different times while driving around the city. Continue reading

2013 Ford Focus Electric Test Drive

2013 Ford Focus Electric - green
When I heard that Ford was bringing their 2013 Ford Focus Electric to offer test drives at the Maryland Volt/EV Meetup, I was eager to see if the car had improved from when I drove it several years ago when it was still in development. After a spin around FedExField in the new Focus EV, I think Ford has definitely upped their game.

I had test driven a very early pre-production version of the Ford Focus Electric when they brought it to the Newseum in Washington, DC in October, 2010.  I didn’t have a very high opinion of the car back then. It was very sluggish and unresponsive to the accelerator. That early vehicle also had bad handling due to the odd weight distribution of the battery pack. The power steering, or lack thereof, made it hard to turn. The performance of the pre-production Focus Electric just didn’t live up to my expectations. EVs should have great acceleration and torque but that early development vehicle just didn’t have it.

So how does the production version of the 2013 Ford Focus Electric compare to my disappointing earlier drive? The quick answer is: night and day.  Ford has really turned this vehicle around. They have managed to put the excitement expected of an EV into the Focus Electric!

The steering is buttery smooth. The accelerator response is exactly what you want, there is no delay or “play” in the pedal. The Focus has enough room for a family and the body is the same proven design as the gas-powered Focus. The instrument cluster may not be the most detailed, but it does give you all the necessary information an EV driver needs in an easy-to see-format.

The 2013 Focus Electric has an EPA range of 76 miles from its 23 kWh battery pack. Extra nice is that the on-board charger is actually 6.6 kWh and can charge the vehicle in about 3.5 hours from a 240-volt charging station.

The braking is sharp and powerful.  Good brakes are definitely needed because the 2013 Focus has acceleration that will push you back into your seat. I was very surprised when the wheels actually broke loose and squealed as I was pulling out the parking lot. Ford has also improved the weight distribution and handling. I believe it is now longer than the pre-production version I drove earlier and that may account for what I feel is better battery weight distribution.

Ford still has a long way to go to get the same handling as the Tesla Model S which at this moment is the EV to beat (in my opinion). Ford is at a disadvantage because the Focus is actually a conversion electric vehicle, what I mean by that is that the Focus EV is the same exact vehicle as the gas vehicle minus the gas components and an EV conversion kit squeezed into the existing vehicle.  This makes the Focus Electric cheaper and easier to obtain for the typical consumer but it lacks the engineering of the ground up Tesla Model S. With that in mind, the Ford Focus EV is probably the best EV conversion on the market right now.

Eric Cardwell, Vice President