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Ford's new Fusion Energi hybrid gives driver choice of motors

Melissa Riofrio | March 25, 2013
Ford's fifth alternative energy vehicle lets the driver choose either the gasoline or electric motor to power the car.

Ford's latest entry into the alternative energy vehicle market, the Fusion Energi, is notable for the reassuring amount of control it gives drivers over its plug-in-hybrid powertrain.

Ford previewed the new model to about a dozen journalists here in San Francisco earlier this week. The Fusion Energi is a variation on Ford's bread-and-butter midpriced sedan. It will sell in the $28,000 range when it becomes available later this year.

The Energi has a huge battery, which eats up a good part of the trunk space, but  otherwise the car seems to strike a graceful balance between the intriguingly progressive and the comfortably traditional.

Choosing between gas and electric motors

Ford emphasized that the Fusion Energi is designed to reassure people who get range anxiety when they think about electric cars, by offering choices. You can choose to drive the Fusion Energi in 'Auto EV' mode (like most hybrids) where the car decides when to engage the gas engine and when to use the electric powertrain. Or, you can choose 'EV Later' mode in which you can tell the car to stay with the gas motor. You might switch to this mode if, say, you know your battery is low. Or, you can press an 'EV' button on the center console to use just the electric motor, which is good for short-distance drives.

Reassuring drivers with range anxiety

Even though Ford had nothing to do with the recent fiasco concerning the New York Times's test drive of a Tesla S sedan, the event may well have colored the perceptions of potential hybrid buyers. But the Energi has a 2.0-liter gas engine with a 14-gallon tank, along with its electric motor and 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery. Ford claims that the electric motor alone has a range of 21 miles on a full charge. The gas and electric engines combined, with a full tank and a full charge, have a range of 620 miles, according to Ford.

The powertrain includes a 2.0-liter gas engine with a 14-gallon tank, and an electric motor with a 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery (the battery is stored in the trunk).

Your mileage can vary a lot depending on the way you drive the car, which I observed during a test drive of the Fusion Energi. If you make a lot of sudden stops (as city driving can require), the motor and battery can't recover as much power from the car's deceleration as it can from the gradual slow-downs that regenerative braking prefers.

You can choose to drive in full-electric mode by pressing the 'EV' button on the center console.


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