First Drive: Ford Fusion Energi Plug-In Hybrid

By · March 29, 2013

Ford Fusion Energi

The Ford Fusion Energi in New York. (Jim Motavalli photo)

NEW YORK CITY—The New York International Auto Show is a one-stop-shop under the roof of the cavernous Javits Center, but it’s occasionally possible to get out onto the street. I ventured onto 10th Avenue for a chance to drive the brand-new Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid—the companion car to the C-Max Energi, which has an almost identical drivetrain.

Making a Lifestyle Choice

Ford’s Sam Hoyt told me that Fusion vs. C-Max is a “lifestyle choice,” meaning if you want sedan styling cues and worry that the C-Max is too much of a “station wagon,” you’ll buy the slightly larger Fusion. The C-Max is cheaper ($29,995) but the Fusion comes with more standard features.

Hoyt said that only 200 of the Fusions have been sold so far, but 800 are in stock at dealerships around the country—you won’t find one in North Dakota, though. Some 900 of Ford’s dealers have signed on to be EV certified, but only 300 are now. “We aim to have at least one dealer in every state,” Hoyt said. Predictably, the Fusion is selling best in California, but Hoyt said it’s also doing well in what she called the “breadbasket states” of the Midwest.

Ford Fusion Energi

The Ford Fusion Energi: lots of luggage space, thanks to a smaller battery. (Jim Motavalli photo)

Energi vs. Volt

Why should you buy an Energi instead of a Chevy Volt, which is about the same price ($39,495 for the Ford, though the federal income tax credit is $3,750 instead of $7,500)? Ford is boasting that it offers five-passenger seating instead of the Volt’s four. An Energi selling point for me is a nicer interior—I’ve always found the Volt’s skimpy back seat and unfinished-looking trunk area unimpressive.

Another plus in the Fusion’s column is that the gas engine recharges the battery as you drive—though not to a full charge. The Volt doesn’t do this, with Chevy engineers explaining that it’s more efficient to recharge the battery from wall power.

Sizing the Battery

Hoyt said that Ford made tradeoffs with the Fusion Energi. Yes, the company could have gone with a larger battery for more electric cruising range (and a full federal credit). “But then the battery would have been twice as big and we wouldn’t have been left with any trunk space,” she said. “We looked at the average commute, and arrived at a solution that would allow many owners to drive for a month without stopping for gas. A 35-mile electric range was more than we needed.”

Like the Volt, Energi offers a big cruising range, 620 miles, and 21 miles on electricity alone (maybe 15 if it’s cold). It’s rated at 100 MPGe, 92 highway and 108 around town. Without the blended battery power, acting like a regular Fusion Hybrid, it delivers 47 mpg in town and on the highway. The two-liter Atkinson Cycle gas engine offers 149 horsepower, and there’s 195 net horsepower on tap from the two powertrains. Expect 188 horsepower in sustain mode (after the battery power is exhausted). The lithium-ion battery pack is rated at 7.6 kilowatt hours, which is too small for the full federal credit.

On the Road

OK, enough nuts and bolts. The Fusion Energi was at the curb, and its high-tech cabin inviting. I’ve driven the C-Max Energi, and I’d be lying if I said the experience was much different. I was in charge-depleting mode for the brief drive, which means it was an electric car for me.

I’m still not conditioned to electric cars that don’t “start.” Get in, turn the key, and off you go. There was a nice surge of smooth power during a brief bit of open traffic on the avenue, and ultra-quiet operation. Some have described the regen braking as “aggressive,” but I found it mild. I’d actually like it dialed up a bit, but the Fusion Energi does not offer a “B” mode.

I like the steering feel in today’s Fords (including the Focus and Fiesta) and thought the Energi handled well. My drive was far too short to get a real sense of what the car can do, but it left a favorable impression--it felt solid, well-engineered and--did I mention this?--very, very quiet.

Plugged In

Of course, there’s a ton of electronic aids. My car had the parking assist feature, which worked wonderfully well on the New York street. As with other of these systems, you pull forward of the space, and when the screen tells it’s detected a space you let it take over, controlling only the accelerator and brake. Other stuff: an LED illuminated charge port (shades of Tesla), MyFord Mobile to help you schedule a charging session and find available stations, and a gauge cluster with readouts for virtually everything you need to know about state of charge and depletion.

Should you consider the Fusion Hybrid as a cheaper alternative? Maybe. But for the many California buyers, that choice won’t get you the much-coveted HOV lane access. And in California the car also comes with a $1,500 state rebate that wouldn’t apply to the hybrid model. These two things alone will sell a lot of cars.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

"An Energi selling point for me is a nicer interior—I’ve always found the Volt’s skimpy back seat and unfinished-looking trunk area unimpressive."

Well, did you take a look at Fusion Energi's UNIMPRESSIVE AND CRAMPED trunk? Guess NOT!!!!!! Look up the spec, buddy, it is almost useless..

"Another plus in the Fusion’s column is that the gas engine recharges the battery as you drive—though not to a full charge. The Volt doesn’t do this, with Chevy engineers explaining that it’s more efficient to recharge the battery from wall power."

I call that ignorance!!!! Activate the "Mountain mode" in the Volt and it will charge the battery from empty to about 13 EV miles... Once you switch back to Normal and re-launch the car, you will get all that EV miles back.

Why would you use the engine to charge the battery anyway? That is an useless/inefficient process. The EV hold button the Volt is much more useful.

"Without the blended battery power, acting like a regular Fusion Hybrid, it delivers 47 mpg in town and on the highway."

WRONG again! Please look up the "Extended Range" MPG for the Energi. It is in the 41-43mpg range, NOT the 47MPG in the hybrid. It is mostly due to the added weight. And we all know that regular Fusion Hybrid doesn't get 47mpg in real world.

Instead, you could have commented on how nice the Fusion looks, drives and for anyone who looks for a sedan, it is a great choice. Instead of comparing it to the Volt, maybe you should compare it to the Honda Accord Plugin. Also, mentioning the "smart" EV mode with the Fusion to boost 1-2 extra EV miles would a bonus.....

I am sorry to say this, but this got to be one of the MORE poorly written article on the site or as far as a car review goes...

· · 1 year ago

@MoodernMarvelFan,
You do realize that you come off as a bit of an ass, don't you? What I mean to say is this" You DO realize that you come off as a bit off an ASS!!!!!!!, don't you?!!!! buddy?

· · 1 year ago

@TrasKY,

I tend to be an "ASS" to someone who post lies or stupid information. I believe as a writer for a particular website, that standard should be held to even higher level.

If I had to do a similar review, I would make sure I do my homework and try to write it as objectively as possible. However, "journalism" standard has gone down the toilet with the widespread of internet.

If "being ass" would get rid of stupid information, I would gladly be the "ass" of this site and change my login name to "stupidity hating ass".

· · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

I posted some info about your charging at work problem on the leaf blog..

Hehe. Just wanted to know how much of this discussion boils down to a "We Love Ford" vs. "We Love Chevy"?

I'm sure there are those here who will ONLY buy a FORD, ( because nothing else is any good ), but don't you Ford guys think the Fords are a bit high priced ? And this is coming from a Tesla dude, hehe.

· · 1 year ago

A 7.6 KWh battery versus an 85 KWh battery in the Model S, that is an abyss of a difference. Can’t there be some reasonable middle balance here. Something like a 30 KWh battery with a small Rex if one needs to go further. It sounds so obvious that one can only be left puzzled as to why no OEM is actually putting that down on the market.

· · 1 year ago

Why are there no pictures of the trunk? Were you banned from opening it? If Ford claims they kept the battery smaller to preserve trunk space, then show it to us!

I like this car, and although it might compete with a Volt to some people, that will likely be much less common than being cross-shopped with an Accord plug-in. I understand that the Volt is today's Gold Standard of PHEV/EREV, but here it's a weak comparison.

@Priusmaniac - the BMW i3 is pretty darn close to your description (except the battery is a little smaller). The Energi cars fill in another gap between a tradition hybrid and an EREV like the Volt. We are starting to see a spectrum of plug-in cars, which is great because people's needs and wants are all over the map.

· · 1 year ago

"Another plus in the Fusion’s column is that the gas engine recharges the battery as you drive—though not to a full charge. The Volt doesn’t do this, with Chevy engineers explaining that it’s more efficient to recharge the battery from wall power."

This was an odd statement, and I think it shows a certain amount of confusion that is also common among the public. Does the gas engine recharge the battery as you drive? Yes and no. Depends on what you mean.

Though I am no expert of the Fusion, I would almost guarantee you that it won't charge the battery back up by anything but trivial amounts from things like regenerative braking, or at brief times when the engine is producing more power than is needed to move the car, etc. In this way, it is really no different than the Volt. To have the engine charge the battery back up by any significant amount would be pointlessly inefficient and self defeating. No manufacturer would do that. And if they did, it would be in the disadvantage column, not the advantage column.

· · 1 year ago

You'll find pictures and all the details imaginable on the Fusion Energi trunk here: http://www.fordfusionenergiforum.com/topic/472-fusion-energi-trunk-pictu...

· · 1 year ago

@Eric Loveday,

Thanks for the link! It does require registration to view the picture. But those are great photo of the actual trunk. Isn't it funny how Ford and Honda hide any "PUBLIC" release photo of their plugin's trunk? Isn't that a reflection of how poorly those trunks are designed?

· · 1 year ago

@Bill,

I agree somewhat. But I don't blindly hate Ford or love Chevy. Both of them are known to make some great products and terrible products. I just want a factual comparison. That is all I am asking for from writers today. Volt is NOT perfect. In fact, I have a long list of complains. But it is a pretty darn good compromise. Fusion Energi is also a good car, especially for people who needs 5 passenger room and a conventional looking sedan.

I wonder if the writer complain the same about the Tesla S since that is another hatchback and trunk is easily seen from the front seat.

· · 1 year ago

I don't critique the writers any more. If I challenge their statements they get pissed and don't respond.

· · 1 year ago

@ModernMarvelFan Understood. I use the internet to be an ass as well.

· · 1 year ago

@Brian,

Indeed what I look for is close to the BMW i3 but the fusion is a real sedan model which is not the case of the i3. We can just hope that BMW will propose a sedan model with a similar system as the on in the i3. Perhaps a BMW i4 like shown on this picture:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/60606797@N02/6265548358/

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