What the FFE got right?

For the last few months I’ve been posting about various features of the Bolt and how they work (or how to work with or around them LOL). There are a couple that the Focus Electric (FFE) had that the Bolt doesn’t that I miss.

The first one is the ability to precondition on a schedule–I’m sure I’ll miss this one even more in the winter (oh yeah I haven’t even started my daily rantings about winter driving with an EV again LOL–I suspect the Bolt in winter will be easier to deal with than the FFE was due to the larger battery). In the FFE you could setup a daily schedule and temperature: “Have the cabin at 72F by 7:00 am M-F”. This was great, especially when I parked it outside. I got very spoiled walking to a 80F car on a cold February morning with 1″ of fresh snow everywhere–except the car’s windows because it had all melted off. Once the schedule was set you could just let the car do its thing and forget about it. Even the C-Max has the precondition schedule although it didn’t seem to work as well: The car didn’t feel like it was 80F or even 70F in the morning (It seems like the C-Max will only precondition for about 15 minutes where the FFE would precondition for a good 30 minutes). Now the Bolt does have preconditioning: There is a “Precondition” button in the app but you have to remember to press it; there is no schedule to setup somewhere to “have the car ready by X:XX time”. At the moment the Bolt is stored outside which means preconditioning will be necessary in the coming winter (to clear the ice/snow off the windows, etc.).

The 2nd feature the FFE had that the Bolt doesn’t is a tightly integrated navigation system. The Bolt has no navigation: it relies on Android Auto(AA) or Apple Car Play(ACP) for navigation. In most ways this is a good thing: both AA and ACP will have the latest version of maps, points of interest, etc. and they are both “free” (as long as you have the expensive smartphone). This is pretty smart on GM’s account as the smartphone navigation features tend to be a little better than the built in ones in cars. Except for the FFE: Ford had integrated the navigation system with the range of the car on the dashboard (I’m sure this was an effort to reduce “range anxiety”) but it worked.

I’m talking about the “Status” indicator on the FFE here. When no destination was programmed into the Nav system the Status indicator would show how well you are driving compared to the last “tank” of electrons. If you were driving “worse” the status indicator would show a negative value (the number of miles you’ll be short). If you were driving “better” the status indicator would show a positive value (the number of “extra” miles you’ll get). In the Bolt a similar display is at the very left of the range gauge–a bar graph showing how well you’re driving against your past driving style.

When a destination was programmed into the Navigation system, however, is when the Status indicator showed its true value. Since the car now knows where you’re going it can compare the range left in the battery with the distance remaining to the destination that calculation became the status indicator. This is the feature the Bolt is missing and can’t really do because the Nav is in your phone which has no knowledge of the car’s current range (they could do it in the Chevy app since it is talking to the car but that has its own list of bugs ! LOL).

I found myself frequently using this feature in the FFE. Now the Nav system has another use: Not only can you use it for directions (very rarely, in fact, in a car that only goes 70 miles) but you can also use it for the “can I make it” questions. I would program in a destination even though I knew how to get there because I could adjust my driving style so that I could make it to that destination (by keeping the Status value positive). This was especially useful in the winter when the car’s range would drop to 50 miles or less.

You could argue, however, that with the Bolt’s 238+ range that such an indicator isn’t necessary and I would agree with you most of the time. There are instances where knowing if you’ll make it or not would be nice especially if knowing you’ll make it means you can increase your speed or use extra A/C or heat. This would have been handy on our long range run we did a few weeks ago.

Of course both of these features are “nice to have” I’ll happily live with the Bolt without them (and if I never had the FFE before the Bolt I wouldn’t have even known about them), but it would have made the Bolt a little bit nicer to live with had they been there.

The real question I have is will the next Ford BEV’s have these features (of course if we ever see any of the Ford BEV’s they have been promising for some time now)?

 

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What the FFE got right?

Seen on the road..

Wow, two posts in one day…

Head on out to dinner tonight and come across an identical Bolt on the road. A nod to the driver and off we go our separate ways….

Now seeing another Bolt on the road isn’t that unique of an event; before I picked one up I’d see one around here every one or two weeks.

After dinner, however, we saw a much rarer beast: Leaving the restaurant I happen to notice a Ford charge port on the car next to us. After backing out the car is revealed to be a black Focus Electric (FFE)! I really don’t see many of these..even when I had one I think I saw one a year other than mine, and my coworkers. Given that these are that rare it is likely that I’ve seen this FFE before.

The real question, for me, is: Did they notice the Bolt and purposely park next to it….

 

Seen on the road..

There is a lot going on here

Check out the Bolt’s dash:

BoltDash

This is the “enhanced” view (there are 3 views: ok, better, and this one LOL). The enhanced view shows the most information of all the 3 views.

For the basics you’ve got the speed in the big digits top center (along with a compass above it). To the left is the cruise control’s settings (on/off, set speed). Below that is configurable; things like the radio display, trip meter (as seen here), tire pressure, phone, etc. (Note that there are only 25 miles driven on this charge in city streets so my miles/kWh value is much higher than I’ve been getting. Since I reset the trip meter at full charge its artificially high–I’ve been getting between 4 and 4.2 miles/kWh so far. May have to make another post about the kind of range I’ve been getting; perhaps when I put a few more miles on the car…)

The ring around that display (in grey here) changes color based on your current efficiency (this would be similar to “status” on the FFE except that its more instant efficiency–there is another piece in this display that is closer to the FFE’s “status” indicator; more on that in a moment). The ring changes from green to yellow based upon your current driving style/state. Most noticeably it begins to turn yellow when you go faster than about 65 mph and is full yellow at 70 mph (haven’t gone much faster to see if it goes completely red or not).

On the right is the power display. The number will tell you how much power draw (or generation) the car is using. It turns green for regen (and the little regen display animates). In addition to that the horizontal line just to the left of the 1 kW is a bar graph growing one way for power consumption and the other for regeneration.

Below that is the PRNDL display and the go/no go green car (similar to the FFE’s green “ready to go car”). On the top right is the parking brake indicator.

The left contains the “fuel gauge”: The green bar graph gives you a decent approximation of the % of battery left (with tick marks at the quarter positions). The three numbers comprise the car’s GOM (Guess-O-Meter): The top one is an estimate of your maximum range remaining if you drive as efficiently as possible, the middle one is your range based on your current driving habits/style/etc. and the bottom is the minimum range to expect if you drove it like you stole it. Now there is another gauge hidden here: That grey arc just to the left of the green bar graph. This one is the display that more closely matches the FFE’s “status” indicator (when no route is programmed in). This graph will display how well you’re driving against your past history. If you drive more efficiently a green bar will grow from the center towards the top; less efficiently a yellow bar will grow from the center towards the bottom. This gauge isn’t instant like the power meter at the right; its more of a rolling average–like the GOM itself–so it reacts slower. Thus you may be driving on the freeway at 70 mph and see the green bar grow and think: “what? how can I be more efficient at 70 mph”–its because its more of a trend over your trip instead of an instant value. My guess here is that it is an indication of which range to expect given how you’ve been driving. The closer the bar gets to one of the values (max, average, or min) the more you can expect that range from this charge.

To finish things off: the bottom left has the vehicle’s odometer.

Compared to the FFE’s dash; I like it. Sure it doesn’t display some of the things the FFE did (many of those values can be seen on the entertainment system’s display: like the proportion of energy devoted to climate controls instead of propulsion, electricity consumed since last charge, etc.) and in some cases you get more information (specifically a power value for regen–the FFE just had a twirly thing letting you know it was regenerating).

 

There is a lot going on here

Focus Electric Fire sale

Hat tip to the Focus Electric Forums: Due to the 2017 FFE having >100 miles of range, the 2016 FFE will be pretty hard to sell. If you look nationwide on Auto Trader you find that there are a bunch of dealers offering them for less than $20,000. Combine that with the Federal rebate of $7500 and you could get a brand new electric car for around $12,000 (mind you a car that, less than four years ago, was selling for $37,000!). (Keep in mind, that if you buy the car, the Federal rebate comes off of your income taxes–you don’t get that as cash back at the time of sale. In addition, if your tax liability is less than $7500 you won’t get the full value. If you lease the car, however, the rebate goes to the leasing company and many of them pass on the savings in the lease.)

Granted this car comes with some caveats, but if you fit the profile it may be worth it.

The big thing to think about with the car is how far you have to drive and how bad are your winters. Start with your required max distance without charge (MDWC). I’m going to use this figure instead of something like “your commute” because people’s commutes vary wildly and some people may have access to charging at work. Thus your MDWC is a given distance in a day that you can be expected to go without having access to a charger.

The second factor to consider is your weather, specifically your winters (a secondary consideration is how hot it gets in the summer, but the FFE’s battery is actively cooled and cooling costs far far less in terms of battery range than heat does so we can neglect high temps to some degree here). If you have really mild winters (say you’re in Atlanta, or Dallas) you won’t have to worry about the lack of range in the cold. On the other hand if you’re a bit further North: Portland, ME, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, etc. you’ll have to consider that in your “can I use this car” calculations.

Time for some examples: I’ll start with my experience:

My MDWC was 30 miles (couldn’t charge at work, 30 miles is my round-trip commute), living in Detroit I had to be prepared for really cold winters. Frequently when the temps were

I can also use a coworker’s data: his MDWC was 50 miles. He determined the FFE would work–but just barely.

Now lets say someone is in Dallas and has a MDWC of 50 miles. In this case 50 miles really shouldn’t be that big of a deal, except for those rare days where its freezing or below.

The rule of thumb is: Determine how much heat you have to use. If you can get away without using any heat then your MDWC can be as high as 60 miles (or more). If you use marginal heat (the coolest temps your car will see are above 50F) then your MDWC can be as high as about 50 miles. If your coolest temps drop lower then that then your MDWC will also drop. When you get to temps freezing and below your realistic MDWC will drop to about 30-40 miles.

In addition, if you don’t already have a Level 2 EVSE, you’ll have to consider that as well. The FFE will take close to 20 hours to charge an empty battery on a normal 120V house plug. A Level 2 EVSE uses a 240V line (like a dryer, or electric range plug) and can charge up the FFE in as little as 3.5 hours. Prices for a Level 2 EVSE start around $500 or so and go up, and you have to add in any extra electrical work that may be required. You may be thinking that even 3.5 hours is a long time. Remember that is an empty battery. In my case, with my Level 2 I could put enough range back into the FFE to be usable while I cooked dinner.

If you’ve read this far and determine: YEAH! A FFE would be a great car for me, and I love those prices. Don’t be discouraged if the nearest dealer is 500, 1000, or even 2000 miles away. At those prices an extra $500 is worth it to get the car shipped to you.

I would imagine that you’d want to act fast on these if you are even thinking about it since at these prices the limited inventory of 2016 FFE’s won’t last long.

Focus Electric Fire sale

Wow, Found it

Now this is interesting: On the Focus Electric forums people had mentioned that they googled their old FFE’s VIN to see what happened to it after they turned it in at lease end. Granted its been a whole year since I turned my FFE in so I didn’t expect much (or even to find it). Imagine my surprise when I find it in Indiana!

That is from a “find Ford cars” website. It doesn’t appear on that Ford dealer’s pre-owned inventory list thus I suspect someone has already purchased it. I wonder if they paid the $11,000 asking price or bargained for less.

I’ve googled previous cars before but never found the exact one I had, this is kind of interesting and bittersweet–I miss the little fella.

 

Wow, Found it

Bar graphing down the road

Ok, headline writer I’m not! LOL

The Focus Electric had an interesting bar graph display:

This would show you how well you’re driving in specific intervals (5, 10, or 15 minutes). The display lived within the “MyView” section on the left dash display. This meant that you had to select that display or another–there was no real way to show other displays along with it. Note that on the FFE the MyView is split into two small displays. In the above image the bar graph consists of one configurable area, and the Climate/Other display is in another configurable area…so you did have some options.

I liked this display because it would give me a short history of how I was driving in a glance, but it really didn’t have all the details I wanted so I would frequently have a different display up:

The information dense display here is the column with the Wh/mi x 100 inside it. This shows: instant power consumption (the white line at the top), average power consumption (the two white tick marks), and power required for the current “budget” (blue “cup”).

Now, on the C-Max Energi, I get the best of both worlds. Here is how I’ve had the C-Max’s dash board setup:

Note the bar graph display on the right–a similar bar graph that the FFE would show on the left. Now I can have both the bar graph displayed, and the information dense display on the left (on the FFE I’d leave the right screen set on navigation which would show a compass, the name and speed limit of the current street–the C-Max has the same display available but I found I didn’t use it that much).

On the bar graph display at right: The far left bar (one with the 0, 40, 60, 100 scale) shows the instant miles/gal, the 5 bars show the history in 10 minute intervals (configurable), and the line shows the current average mpg.

The left has a really busy display showing power from the gas engine, electric motor, climate consumption, and “other” (typically other is the defroster, radio, seat heat, etc.). Its fun to watch the gas/electric graphs bounce around as you drive and the car switches between the two. In addition there is an arrow above or below the battery showing when the battery is being discharged or charged (below the battery is an icon showing which mode the car is currently in–EV later in this case).

After all this reading you’re probably thinking: Hey keep your eyes on the road! Yeah, I know: driving either car around is like driving a video game! LOL Once you get used to the displays only a quick glance down at the dash is all that is needed to ascertain your current status; even though its busy you do get used to it and can scrape the information you’re looking for very quickly.

 

Bar graphing down the road

Goodbye FFE…

I’m sad to report that I turned in my FFE today. This doesn’t mean the end of the blog, however, as I did get a new car with a plug as well (more on that in a sec).

Things I loved about the FFE:

  • The quiet ride
  • The looks (probably the sportiest little EV available)
  • The technology (many people knock My Ford Touch but I really didn’t have much issue with it and the EV features integrated in are very nice)
  • The fact that it is a stealth EV. In the entire time I had it only about 3 people noticed that it was an EV and said something (all of the comments were positive)
  • Being able to charge at home. Not having to stop somewhere to “fill up” is huge–we would rarely take it somewhere beyond its range and thus I didn’t have a need to use public charging very often (I think I have about 10 entries in my Chargepoint account history).

Things I didn’t like about the FFE:

  • Winter
  • The heater
  • The lack of a fast charge–sort of
  • Not towable

Note the first two items here as they are related: In the winter the heater uses up more electricity than the motor on the FFE. Thus in the winter I would get 40-50 miles out of the car when using the heat. These two items (and the last) are the major reasons I did not lease another FFE.

That last item is kind of important to us as well. When we first leased the FFE we used a 5th wheel pulled by a pickup. Thus when we went camping we’d just use the pickup to get around. Over the course of the FFE lease we traded in the 5th wheel & pickup on a motorhome. Now we tow a vehicle for use. Look in the FFE’s owners manual: can’t tow it–pretty much at all.

Instead I opted to lease a C-Max Energi. Sure it seems like a step backward given its ~20 mile EV range vs the 70 rated miles on the FFE. In addition I will occasionally have to frequent gas stations again (that doesn’t matter much as our RV holds 55 gallons of gas which kind of negates all the EV driving I do! LOL). I figure that in the winter I’ll have to use the gas engine for one of the legs on my commute (probably the commute into work as that is when its coldest and I’ll welcome the engine’s heat). In addition, the C-Max can be flat towed (4 wheels down). Hopefully when this lease is up Ford will have a more compelling choice for an EV other than a 100 mile FFE!

The reason I stuck with a Ford is mentioned in the about link on the blog: I used to work there, and have family that still does–can’t beat the employee discount.

Since this is a 2016 C-Max Energi it comes with the new Sync 3 system. Look in the future for some posts on how to use that (much like all the My Ford Touch posts I did for the FFE).

Goodbye FFE…