When Motor Trend picked the Tesla S as their 2013 Car of the Year, I picked a fight with them on Twitter. A fight that lasted about 12 hours. And it didn't have anything to do with how expensive, elitist or hard to get the Tesla S was. It had everything to do with the fact that, given all the money and availability in the world, more than half of the population in the US couldn't own this car. Why? Because they don't have anywhere to plug in. This is especially true in a place like Chicago because, let's face it, most of us live in condos or apartments that don't have a place to charge for 8 hours. Or at least, not anyplace that won't get your plug stolen or vandalized.
And this is why I hesitate to drive electric-only vehicles as test cars in Chicago. But I accepted the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi because I was curious about how well it would do without plugging in. It was delivered after being fully charged, displaying 99 mpg on the fuel gauge read out. But, without a charge, those high mpgs quickly dwindled. Even though I tried not to drive like a lead foot this past week.
So, though I didn't get a consistent electric boost, I am pleased with my ending fuel economy in combined driving of 47.8 mpg. That just beats the combined fuel economy for the Fusion Hybrid. With city driving or traffic on the highway, I was able to stay around 50 mpg. I actually drove the Hybrid model last winter, and I didn't do nearly as well as I did in the Energi. Some of that is likely weather related. But some of that is definitely the initial boost I got from the full charge.
The Energi is EPA rated at 43 mpg for combined driving with gasoline only. Note: That's actually 4 mpg less than the Hybrid.
Overall the Energi is a comfortable car that has a nice, solid -- and quiet -- ride. It's easy to stay in EV mode for longer periods of time, and I was amazed to find myself operating in electric-only for short spans on the highway at speeds of 55 mph. The downside of the Energi is trunk space. It's downright minuscule with just 8.2 cubic-feet of cargo volume. That's enough space to fit some grocery bags and backpacks, but it's a little tight for a roller board suitcase.
Plus, there is an $11K price difference between the plain Hybrid ($27,200) and the Energi ($38,700) models. So, the question is: Is it worth it? For most Chicago drivers, the answer has to be no. Unless you have a safe place to charge, you'll be driving it like a hybrid for longer periods of time as the EV range is only 21 miles. If, however, you have a house with a garage or an apartment building that has a charging station (and your parking attendants actually know how to use said charging station), then it makes more sense. But I'm not sure that it makes $11,500 worth of sense.
Not if you're talking about earning your money back.
According to www.fueleconomy.gov, the annual cost of fuel in an Energi is $950, and the annual cost of fuel in an hybrid is $1,100. That's just a $150 difference. My Jill Math isn't very good, but I still think you'd end up driving this vehicle for a heck of a long time before you'd make up the difference.
If, however, you're talking about being an early adopter and paving the way for other green technologies, then it makes a lot of immediate sense. That is, if you have an extra $11K to spend on a car.
Chicago-worthy rating: 6. While I think you do get some benefit from driving a partially electric vehicle in an urban environment, it's just not enough in the city of Chicago in 2013. Unless of course you are one of those rare individuals who has a charging station at home and at work. Then I'd bump it up to an 8. The Energi is a smooth ride and easy to drive. It has that pep when you need it but floats into EV when you don't. However, I do think the price difference between the Energi and the Hybrid is a little steep, and I'd lean more toward the Hybrid for Chicago.
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