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Ford is making some big strides in the electric arena, and I'm pretty happy with that. You might have seen that I achieved 64.8 miles per gallon in the gas Focus during a trip in Marfa with three passengers total and some inclines. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Nancy Gioia, Ford’s Director of Global Electrification. What I found most interesting during this phone chat actually had little to do with their technology, rather it was about Nancy's life. In the green driving community, the emphasis is largely on achieving the highest miles per gallon and reducing one's carbon footprint. Many vehicles are designed with that as the main priority and sacrifices in other areas.
While reducing carbon footprints is an important goal, it is unreasonable to expect that everything else should be sacrificed. It is also pretty unreasonable to ask people to change their lifestyles. Case and point: I show dogs (a big one and a little one) in variety of activities. I need space for the dogs, luggage, and their equipment, and even a large sedan won't do. I currently own a small SUV, and I occasionally have to use my hitch haul or trailer for our stuff. The selection of vehicles available to meet me needs on the market right now is rather small, and it doesn't seem that many of the electric vehicles in the near future will accommodate my needs.
During the phone conversation with Nancy, I learned that she had horses. Nancy was what someone might call "one of us." One of us who needs a vehicle that can tow, haul, and transport heavy items. I don't know how much Nancy's horses weigh, but I'm guessing that they much heavier than @mousethedog. Nancy transports her horses in an Ecoboost F150 that nets her 20% better fuel economy. The Ecoboost offers 20% better fuel efficiency with no loss of power or towing capabilities. The F150 and the 2011 Explorer will offer Ecoboost. I find it refreshing that the director of global electrification is someone who understands that there is a need for vehicles that are capable of towing and hauling and heavier loads. I feel like the segment of the audience with those needs won't be loss when new technologies are being developed.
The original topic of the phone interview with Nancy was the Focus Electric due out in 2011. In looking at the materials, I found myself actually more interested in another vehicle that I have never seen, the Transit Connect Electric. This larger, two-seater van is targeted at the commercial customer with a need for more storage. This would be a great dog show van. Unfortunately, the Transit Connect will have a range of 80 miles, so it won't make cross-country driving easy. However, this is the perfect vehicle for businesses that deliver locally like florists, bakeries, meat suppliers, local farmers, and breweries. Many Austin breweries do their own distribution of kegs right now, and Transit Connect would be perfect for their needs. The interior is easily modified and configured. Nancy also mentioned that one was turned into a mobile dog grooming unit. I haven't driven the Transit Connect yet, but Nancy says it is fun and peppy. Can't wait to try it, and can't wait to see if they come out with another version that would fit my needs. *Note: The gas Transit Connect is available with EPA ratings of 22/25.
Photo courtesy of Ford.
The Focus Electric gives a maximum 100 mile range on the “mild drive setting.” That means you can probably get by each normal day not using gas (to be clear, there is no gas, period). The idea is that most people would charge at home, drive for a day, and charge at home again. Some people might have access to a charging station at work or a public location, but that would just be to "top off" the battery." I do believe that Whole Foods in Downtown Austin has two charging stations. This car is ideal for people who have regular schedules, meaning people who can consistently gauge and predict their usage. This car would be an ideal daily driver for me to get to and from work and to a few events in downtown Austin. It might not be a great daily driver for someone who likes to make impromptu trips because of the risk of running out of battery power.
Now that we hit some highlights of what Ford is bringing to the market in the near future, I'm looking forward to taking those vehicles for a test drive.