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February 25, 2014 > Auto Column: Ford Fusion Energi: Breathtaking Fuel Economy Ð and Price

Auto Column: Ford Fusion Energi: Breathtaking Fuel Economy Ð and Price

By Steve Schaefer

ThereÕs a lot of talk these days about hybrid and electric vehicles. With a hybrid, you use gasoline and electricity together to attain higher miles per gallon. Normally, the two propulsion methods switch or combine automatically, as decided by the carÕs computer.

An all-electric vehicle is completely clean, except, with current technology, the distance you can go before you run out of juice is less than 100 miles, except for the pricey Tesla. So, range is the big issue with most electric cars, making them useful only for designated trips, or for reasonable commutes or in-town errands.

But what if you could have both in a single car? A plug-in hybrid does that. The Ford Fusion Energi has a socket behind a circular door in the left front fender for charging the car, which you can fill to the brim overnight on standard 110 household current.

Once youÕve got it topped up, just step in, push the start button, and you can silently cruise for up to 21 miles, according to Ford. I found that the ÒtankÓ gauge, which looks like a three-dimensional image of a flashlight battery, never read more than 19 miles, and I got a little less than that.

My commute is 30 miles each way, so I was able to get about halfway to work before exhausting the battery. Because the gasoline engine in the Fusion Energi is just a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, it is quiet when the shift over to gasoline occurs. Then, the three-dimensional battery switches to a two-dimensional outline, which displays how much charge you have in the hybrid battery.

One morning, I started out in my Dark Side (gray) tester with a full charge. About halfway along, the shift occurred to gas. However, I still got significant electric power from the stop-and-go conditions, to recharge the hybrid battery. When I parked, I had gone 29.8 miles, of which 22.8 were electric vehicle miles. I used just a quarter of a gallon of gas to make the trip, which translates into 122.6 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent).

Of course, on the way home, I was in regular hybrid mode, so I was far less efficient, but with a charger available at both ends, IÕd go 60 miles on half a gallon of gas. ThatÕs pretty astounding.

The EPA scores are 47 mpg for hybrid only, but 100 MPGe when you plug in the car and use it to its maximum. With its 14-gallon tank, you can go up to 620 miles on one fill-up! Green Vehicle scores are a head-of-the-class 10 for Greenhouse Gas and a laudable 7 for Smog.

One weekend day, I ran multiple local errands and arrived at home with some charge left. I didnÕt use a drop of gasoline.

Built in Hermosillo, Mexico, the Fusion transformed from a pleasant, but conservatively styled midsized appliance into a gorgeous, European influenced car with the arrival of the 2013 model; my tester was a Õ14.

The new modelÕs face features a beautiful Aston-Martin style grille, slim headlamps, and from there on back, a curvaceous BMW feel.

Inside, the overstuffed-looking buckets proved to be fine for a few hours behind the wheel. The padded, leather-wrapped steering wheel looks and feels classy. The design and materials are much better than what youÕd find in Detroit manufacturersÕ products not long ago.

The configurable MyFord instrument panel puts all the fuel use information on the left. Choose from Empower (EV use), Engage (electric and gasoline compared), or Enlighten (more details on KWh generated, etc.). The Brake Coach gives you feedback on the percentage of energy youÕve recovered.

On the right is FordÕs branch full of leaves design, which grows thicker with efficiency and barer with profligate accelerator stomping. You also can select from other displays, including audio program and climate information.

The main central panel opens to a Home Page, which shows your phone in the upper left quadrant, entertainment in the lower left, navigation in the upper right, and climate settings in the lower right. Touch the outer corner and it opens to a screen where you can make your selection. Around and below the screen, the central panel is full of touch sensitive spots rather than actual moving buttons.

Downsides? The trunk holds only 8.2 cubic feet because of the extra battery. The car weighs nearly two tons. But the kicker may be the price. My tester came to $40,585, including $1,090 in options. To soften the blow, there is a $4,007 Federal tax credit and a $1,500 California Clean Vehicle Rebate. Ford claims that the EnergiÕs efficiency will save you $6,750 in fuel costs over five years compared to the average new vehicle. Or, consider a Fusion Hybrid without the plug-in, starting at $26,975.

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