Hybrids have been a word in our lexicon since they burst onto the scene and into the mainstream in 1997. Much has changed since we first were introduced to those partially electric vehicles. The Electric Vehicles (EV) of today don’t just capture energy from the motion of the cars parts but actually take electricity from the grid through plug-ins and have the capabilities to get you where you need to go completely sans fossil fuels. The future is now!
This summer I got to take two of Ford’s 2016 plug-ins for a drive to learn first hand what’s up in the world of EVs. It was two weeks of learning, driving, finding charging stations, and testing the limits of electrical range!
The Ford C-Max Energi is a Plug-in Hybrid. Unlike the early Prius of yore, these new Hybrids have a charge port and the ability to plug directly into the grid. They can also run solely on their electric engine. This means that you can cruise around town, charging up at ports and living the emission free dream, or flip it over to the internal combustion engine and hit the highway! Achieving peak speeds and ditching your ‘range anxiety’ with the knowledge that the conventional system of petrol stations will take you where you need to go. It’s truly the best of both worlds for the automobile driver who is nervous about the limitations of the current charging network.
The Ford Focus EV is a fully electric car with no gas tank or internal combustion engine. It was Ford’s first foray into the world of all-electric in 2011 and remains a strong competitor in the 2016 market. It’s the best option for those of us who want to go full green. With intuitive features, sporty and smooth handling, and a range of approximately 122km, it’s as fun as it is practical.
Keep reading to learn about Electric Vehicles, Green Mama Style, and find out what Ford is bringing to the EV table for 2016.
What's To Love?:
- Options for full Electric or plug-in Hybrid
- Easy to drive with great on-board features
- Classic look with modern and cutting edge abilities
- Competitive price point
- Long term savings compared to standard vehicles
What’s not to Love
- Less storage space in the trunk
- Takes time to charge
- More upfront costs
- Shorter range than competitors
- Doesn’t have ability to use Level 3 or super chargers
- Currently no models for large families that need more than 5 seats
The burning of fossil fuels by Internal Combustion Engines is a major source of pollution and a global environmental health concern. The Carbon Monoxide released is a strong greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, and is also deadly when ingested by humans in high quantities (this is why running your car in the garage with the door closed can kill you). There is also a host of other air pollution generated from conventional motor vehicles that impact human health, most notably Fine Particulate Matter, which is responsible for increased morbidity and mortality world-wide.
Curbing emissions from motor vehicles is a key component that needs to be in place to support human health and health of the planet. By switching to a Plug-in Hybrid or full EV you can be a part of this global reduction. To take transportation health to a higher level you could reduce the amount of time you spend driving your new EV by switching to walking or cycling, a move that will increase your exercise and further decrease your emissions.
Many folks prefer the look and feel of the Ford EV and Hybrids because they use the existing features and body of traditional cars. This allows them electric capabilities without the look of an electric vehicle. A more familiar experience for the new EV convert.
This is also why some EV enthusiasts despise Fords foray into plug-in cars. An electric vehicle needs to house a large battery cell, as well as the components that make cars run. For a Hybrid they also need to fit a traditional engine in there too! By using the existing Focus body built for a gasoline engine you need to compromise space (in this case trunk space) to fit all the EV components.
Despite the loss of some interior room, we still found both the Ford Focus EV and C-max Energi hybrid to be spacious and pleasant. I was able to fit 2 car seats and a booster in the back seat of the Focus with ease on one occasion and pack the car with 5 adults (some with long legs) no problem.
I had a blast driving these sporty little cars around compared to the 1982 GMC Vandura I’m used to using. I really enjoyed the console and the features the dash offered. Watching as I regained charge by breaking effectively or keeping my speed in check was exciting. It was a huge lesson to see how much energy I was wasting when I was driving carelessly or distractedly.
It's obvious that switching to an EV or Hybrid is going to drop your carbon footprint substantially. For many readers automobile use is inevitable due to the geography of they town or suburb they live in, and a huge source of their personal carbon footprint. In addition to the personal burning of fossil fuels by consumers, Ford acknowledges its role as a corporation that burns fossil fuels to make cars, which themselves will burn fossil fuels as long as they are operational. Ford estimates that they are responsible for 300 to 400 million metric tons (Mmt) per year of green house gas emissions. Only 5 million of which are from manufacturing. But they are still working towards reducing that number, and are even beginning and accountability process to monitor their supplier's green house gas emissions. Another important factor to consider before patting your green-self on the back for switching to a plug-in Hybrid or EV is where is all that electricity coming from?! The EIA reported that last year 67% of the electricity generated for the USA was from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum). Only 13% was from hydropower and renewables. This means that even with a fully Electric Vehicle, each time you plug your car into the grid you are still burning fossil fuels. Canada fairs a little bit better when it comes to the source of our power. Last year 77% of our energy was from non-greenhouse gas emitting sources. But we still have energy issues of our own. Like the fact that most of our energy is generated in plants and dams up north, far from where most of our population lives, meaning that we lose much of the energy we generate through transmission. Not exactly green.
If you're anything like me you have never seen a car being made. You haven't really thought about where the components come from or how much fresh water is needed, how much waste will end up going to a landfill. Ford is addressing this sector of its operation and has made specific targets towards minimizing the waste they make while creating cars. Electric Engines are touted as having a much longer lifespan with minimal maintenance and intervention compared to Internal Combustion Engines. This means that theoretically less of them will be sitting in junk yards in a few decades. But since they are so new, all of this talk about longevity is yet to be verified. Another point of waste when it comes to EV is electricity waste. Do any other Canadian Millennials remember the Flick Off campaign?! I was taught from an early age that the cardinal sin of personal energy waste comes from leaving appliances or rechargeables plugged in constantly, even when they are fully charged. The trickle charge is one of the largest sources of electrical waste in our homes. So why would I plug my car into charge before bed knowing that in only a few hours time I would be fast asleep, and my EV would be drawing unnecessary power? Ford has made sure that when their EV's and plug-in Hybrids are fully charged they will stop drawing power. They also have an app that syncs with your car so you can 'set it and forget it' and get a notification when it's charged and ready. Easy Breezy.
When it comes to EV and Hybrid cars from Ford the investment is really up front. In comparison to their non-plug in counter parts, a Focus EV will run you $29,404 CAD compared with $16, 466 CAD for the regular Focus base costs. Then there is the installation of a home charging station, which in Vancouver presently costs around $1000 for the charger and $1500 for installation. That number can increase by thousands of dollars though if your panel doesn’t have enough ampage for the new charger, or if your garage is situated far from the panel. For these reasons, getting into an Electric Vehicle may be prohibitively costly for some. Check with your local government to find out what national and local incentives there are available to offset the costs of making the switch.
It’s evident that with the rising cost of oil and gas the day-to-day savings will be marked for every drive you take without fossil fuels (especially if you live in Canada or Europe where the fuel costs are higher than the US). Even if you eventually need to replace your lithium-ion battery (a big fear for many EV owners), the longevity and reduced wear-and-tear compared to internal combustion engine vehicles will save you money over time as well. Think about the 25 conventional car parts missing from an Electric Vehicle . . . numerous filters, spark plugs, alternator, radiator, timing belt, and oil. (Goodbye Mr. Lube!)
Essentially the Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Vehicles are going to set you back some serious up front cash compared to a used Internal Combustion Engine that you snag on Craigslist. But you will be winning every day after that in terms of unforeseen mechanical expenses and daily driving costs. Eventually you will pay back the start-up cost and be financially better for it.
But economics aside, switching to a Plug-in Hybrid or full EV, like those made by Ford, will be valuable in a different sense. The value of making a personal choice towards a smaller footprint and more sustainable transportation choice for your family or business.