Shop Talk

Test driving the new, all-electric Ford Focus

When an e-mail appeared in my inbox last week offering a test drive of Ford’s new all electric car (by chance, my editor being away meant her out of office directed e-mailers to me), I jumped on it.

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The special green licence plates that allow drivers to use the “two-people-or-more-only” lane

I lined up my test drive for this past Tuesday to Wednesday afternoon, knowing I’d have a lot of out-of-office stuff to do. I also knew I would have little time to do any research into the car, on the Internet, reading the manual, or just spending sedentary time in it playing with the buttons – so this experience would be as basic and (hopefully) user-friendly as possible (I have extremely limited technical skills that don’t go much past posting food pictures on Instagram).

My Ford contact forwarded me a few blogs of other test drivers to prepare me (that I have only just read) and a link to the CAA website that shows where the charging stations are in my area.

Tuesday morning, my boyfriend dropped me off at the dealership so I could get my car. “Make sure it’s pink,” he said.

It was blue, but nonetheless, I was pumped. After a quick tutorial and a signature, I was off. There wasn’t much necessary in the way of explanation: she showed me how to gauge my “fuel” usage (I started with 129km of drivability), how to plug the car in, that my green licene plate meant I could drive in the “two-people-or-more-only” lane alone, and told me that the apholstery was made of 100% recycled material. And that the brakes are very sensitive. For a late-braker like myself, this would be an understatement. I was embarrassed as I made my way out of the parking lot, jolting the car every time I tapped (I felt like I was tapping, anyway) the brakes. I was also very nervous, I consider myself a good driver (my dad is a car man, a mechanic, a Formula 1 fanatic – and I like to think I inherited his skills) but I haven’t been driving regularly for over four months.

However, once you get going, it’s a breeze. The first thing I did was drive to my dad’s shop – from Carling and Kirkwood to Scott and Parkdale. He was out when I arrived so I drove to work at Somerset and Booth. Holy sh*t the car is quiet. There is actually a green icon of a car on the dashboard to show you when the care is drivable (as in when it’s on), otherwise you can hardly tell. I parked, using the rearview camera as an aid.

Over lunch, I went to pick up my boyfriend (called him from the bluetooth in the car – I know this is already old news, but for me – exciting!) from work at Carling and Woodroffe. My Ford rep had told me the car will eat more kms if you use a lot of things like radio, AC, etc. So I kept the AC off (I’m a windows down person anyway) but did keep the radio on. Sirius was also an option, but like I said, I can’t be bothered with technology most of the time, nor did I have the time to figure out how to use it.

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My usage is tracked on the left of the dashboard.

The more I drove, the more I got a handle on the brakes and noticed other things like how good the acceleration was. I picked up my boyfriend and we discussed the stats on my dashboard as we drove back to my dad’s shop at Parkdale and Scott (this blogger’s dash looked a bit different than mine). There was a battery shaped metre that kept track of how many kms I had left. When I was heavy on the gas, I used more kms and when I braked or coasted, I recharged. It became a game for me, how much could I recharge this time? My boyfriend (a full-stack developer for a software company) quickly figured out the screen to show me where most of my battery power was being used in the car and another that showed how long it would take me to charge the car (at around 100kms left – 4 hours to charge at a 120v plug and only 45 minutes at a 240v). The former I was able to find on my own later pretty easily, the latter I never saw again.

Finally getting to show my (68-year-old Sicilian) father the car was somewhat disappointing but not unexpected. “I don’t like electric cars. How am I supposed to know if it’s on?” However, when we drove off, the bewildered look on his face in reaction to the car’s stealth was worth it.

We ate nearby (Anthony’s Pizza, my favourite Italian-style crust in Ottawa), then I drove him back to work. After that, I had to go downtown for an interview near Sparks, then, finally, back to work at Somerset and Booth.

As the afternoon went on, I kept thinking, “No gas. No gas ever again.” It was a comforting thought – even for someone who normally is without a car. I still get gas-price-related anxiety when passing a station sign, post-traumatic-gas-purchasing disorder, I guess.

After work, I had a quick errand to run at Bank and Nepean, then I was off to my serving job in Hintonburg.  It was a busy night in the ‘burg and I wasn’t off until close to 10. It was raining and I had a momentary panic that I wouldn’t be able to start the wiper blades (some cars are tricky!) but I was fine.

A few minutes later, I was in my parking garage. I have an outlet right next to my parking spot, and I plugged the car in. The input area didn’t light up, but when I peaked back in the car, there was a plug icon on the dash similar to what you see when your phone is charging. Being that I was exhausted and still had 72km left for a half day tomorrow, I wasn’t worried.

I also had the luxury of the “big brother” effect. Unlike this blogger, I didn’t get nervous about running out of kms. If something happened, I’d just call Ford and they’d deal with it.

The next morning I woke up early for breakfast with a friend before work. Got to the car – it hadn’t charged. Oh well, it was likely a problem with my outlet rather than the car. Off to the other end of Hintonburg to grab my girlfriend and then back to the Wellington Diner for their $5.99 weekday breakfast (oh, those potatoes).

“I’m driving an electric car.” I proudly told her. “I can see that.” she said.

Back to work for a few hours, then a lot of running around before returning the car: Somerset and Lyon, then Bank st. near Lansdowne, followed by Westboro for a course of interviews. By 12:30, I was headed back to Ford.

I returned the car with a final sweep, making sure I hadn’t forgotten anthing, and a longing look. I had started to fall for the car. I’d come to think of it like I think of a new phone: reliable, clean, unscratched, and with a charge that lasts longer than a day. I still had about 50km left – oh the things I could have done with those 50.

This page has the car listed at about $34,000 with a possible $8,500 rebate from the govenment. And he’s also got the car down as costing only 25 per cent as much as regular gas car.

It is amazing for the running around a busy person needs to do in the city (or just having fun in the city – check out this blogger’s post) for a day (or two). Could you get to Montreal or Toronto? Yes, if my estimation from the CAA map is correct (this was at a cursatory glance). It just may take a while. There are plenty of charging stations available, but what if they are all 120v’s? That means over 4 hours of charging. If they are 240v’s, it’s much more reasonable. But I think I’d use my gas savings on the train.

If you’re interested in learning more about this car, and possibly taking it out for a test drive yourself, check out EV Day on Sparks St. today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

I won’t be in the market for a car anytime soon, but when I am, I know where I’m going. And maybe by then, it will be available in pink.