2014 Ford Fusion Energi : It’s a little early, and expensive, but it’s the future


2013 Ford Fusion Energi: The all-new Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid will deliver more than 100 MPGe, a miles-per-gallon equivalency metric. (01/09/12) (Ford Motor Co. )
Warren Brown
Columnist June 21, 2013

Change comes, albeit slowly.

Examples abound — smartphones, computerized notebooks.

Warren Brown is a columnist who writes about autos for The Washington Post. View Archive

I never thought I’d have to depend on those things. I now find it difficult to get though a day without using one.

The same thing will happen with electrified automobiles. That’s “electrified,” as opposed to “electric” per se.

Electric vehicles, battery-only types, constitute a singular version of electrified models, which include cars such as the subject of this week’s column, the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi sedan in its SE Luxury edition.

It is a plug-in electric hybrid, quite similar to the Chevrolet Volt. Both cars can run a certain number of miles battery-only, freeing them from the need to burn gasoline and exhaust its fumes.

But both cars also come with extended-range technology — small gasoline-fueled engines/
generators that take over when charged batteries discharge.

The essential difference is that the Fusion Energi can carry you up to 21 miles battery-only. The Chevrolet Volt offers a nearly 40-mile battery-only range.

After several hundred miles, mostly commuting, in the Fusion Energi, I’m not at all certain that its shorter battery-only driving range is a real disadvantage. Here’s why:

My regular commuting day — one during which I run local errands only — rarely involves more than 20 miles of driving. It helps that I work from home. At the end of one of those 20-mile days, I plug in and charge up and I’m ready for the next day’s driving free of the need to buy or burn gasoline.

I drove the Fusion Energi in this manner for nearly 300 miles, buying gasoline only when I deliberately drove the battery into its discharge zone. I made it home after a 120-mile highway run with a bit more than three-fourths of a tank of gasoline (regular grade) remaining. I was happy with that — decent gasoline-free driving range, good fuel-economy (41 miles per gallon on the highway) when gasoline was needed, all-around good highway performance in an overall well-crafted sedan.

I don’t expect a groundswell of consumer enthusiasm for the Ford Fusion Energi, not any more than I did, in retrospect, for the Chevrolet Volt. But both cars are necessary in a world of rapidly changing energy needs and growing challenges to meeting those needs.

Both cars cost more than most of us are willing to pay when perfectly serviceable gasoline-only automobiles are available at lower prices. The Ford Fusion Energi starts at $38,700. The Chevrolet Volt Hatchback begins at $39,145.

By comparison, a wonderfully plush gasoline-only Ford Fusion Titanium sedan starts at $33,295. You’ll be driving for quite a while before you recover, in lower gasoline costs, the higher premium paid for the plug-in electric Fusion Energi.

Why buy it?

Answering that question will require thinking beyond your bank account, which is a difficult if not impossible proposition for most of us.

I’ll just say that the Ford Fusion Energi, Chevrolet Volt and similar automobiles all make sense for the world we are in.

It is a world of increasing, dangerously competitive energy demands, which is difficult for many of us to see sitting comfortably in the United States. But it becomes crystal clear in places such as Africa, China, South America and the Middle East.

Governments worldwide are pressuring their vehicle manufacturers to help reduce that tension in the struggle for energy resources. Cars such as the Fusion Energi and Volt can help do that while simultaneously giving consumers what they want and need in automobiles.

Both will remain hard sells for a while longer. But they will sell.

It’s simple.

We need them, which is why we eventually will buy them.

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