Friday, June 12, 2015

Long Term Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric post #2

Update #2
Current mileage: 4,450
Average MPGe: 112

For the most part, the actual ownership experience of an EV has really been only minimally different from owning a regular gasoline powered car, aside from being able to wryly smile at the thought of not needing to stop at the local gas station ever. The Focus has proven itself actually quite capable in just about all capacities we have tried to use it. In the last six months, we have moved to a new home, which necessitated many trips back and forth between two locations and occasional stops at our storage unit. Even with a lack of fast charging immediately at either location and the rather high speeds typical of Southern California freeways, we often were able to get several trips out of the battery with only a bit of topping off when stopped at each location to unload.

A key part of the car's versatility is the hatchback body style, which time and time again has proven to be invaluable, despite the presence of the massive battery hump. Following our move, we had a ton of nearly destroyed cardboard boxes and some other random junk that needed to go to the local recycler, so we dropped the back seats and filled the car full of stuff to haul away.

Need to carry a pair of bicycles? Not a problem. Remove the front wheels and both bikes fit in with room to spare. With a little bit of skill, you could probably squeeze a third bike in there as well.

What about a dog? Our newly adopted Lab mix has plenty of room in the back to move around, though when she stands, the view out of the rear is pretty much non-existent.

Still, it is an extremely versatile car that for commuting and around town use has been perfect. Of course, it has not been entirely problem free.

One of the first problems that we encountered was an odd charging fault. Plugged into the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE, aka the charging cable) supplied with the car, the car would charge for a matter of minutes before throwing an error, flashing the charge ring angrily, and then shutting off the flow of power. Before taking the car in for service, we tried everything to see where the problem might be, including trying out different outlets, using the MyFordMobile app to try to force the car to refresh, and even clearing a bunch of settings to no avail. When we finally dropped the car off at the dealership, it took them two tries before they concluded that the EVSE was the problem, but it took a couple of days for them to locate one since apparently these things have been failing with such surprising frequency that no one within the Western United States had one on hand.

With the car back in our hands, things went smoothly until the car was rear-ended by an inattentive driver in rush hour traffic. The damage was minor, but given the fact that the car is leased, we decided to get it fixed anyway. After a somewhat expensive repair, which the other party's insurance company picked up the tab for, we received the car back in pristine condition, but a few days later, started experiencing problems with the MyFordMobile app. Now, let me start by saying the the app, while very useful, is atrociously coded and offers a generally terrible user experience. It frequently has problems and bugs that cause things to act odd, so when the problems first started, I thought nothing of it and assumed that it would resolve itself in a few days and many minor glitches had in the past. Sadly, this was not the case. Given that my previous experience with MyFordMobile support was less than stellar, I turned to the Internet to look for a solution. After a few attempts, I appear to have found a rather temporary solution, though the app still frequently fails to work properly.

And this is actually my biggest gripe, at the moment, with Ford around the Focus Electric. The car itself has been great and is well built, well sorted, and a joy to drive. However, the various peripheral things that are also touted as a part of the ownership experience have been lacking that same level of quality. Recently, Ford announced that it was opening up its EV patents to be licensed for use by other parties, but if Ford actually expects people to pay to use their tech, they might want to invest more time and energy into making sure that the larger environment that supports that tech works well too.