Published on July 2nd, 2013 | by Jo Borrás4
I Went To Detroit To Play With Ford (Part 2)
For those of you just getting here, this is part 2 of my Further With Ford 2013 tech conference coverage. As I mentioned before, days 1 and 2 consisted of a series of seminars with Ford execs and corporate bigwigs from companies like Coca-Cola, Pixar, and others. Of course, being the
jackass interested, engaged alt-fuel activist that I am, I asked lots of (what I thought were) legitimate and thought-provoking questions about why Ford didn’t use its position in the market to push a future fuel — whether that’s ethanol, hydrogen, or electricity — forward in the same way that Henry Ford did a few generations ago.
Said questions, oddly enough, netted me a “talking to” from Ford’s PR guys, but I took it in good faith. They invited me, they actively sought my input, and they shuffled me to seminars and exhibits that would appeal to me. They also seem to have assigned a small crew of “handlers” to, presumably, make sure I didn’t post anything particularly controversial….
… I did not complain. (in fairness, my contact at Ford insisted they genuinely liked me and continued to talk to me on their own — but I am neither witty, attractive, or single enough for that to be a credible hypothesis)
Ford’s real reason for having us at the event was Day 3, however, when we got a chance to drive one of Ford’s mainstream options around the city of Detroit to get a taste of how the city is continuing to evolve, despite people hunting raccoons for food in the suburbs. If Detroit’s Heidelberg Project in the city’s suburbs is any indication, Detroit is weird.
Quirky weird. Fun weird. But — make no mistake — utterly, unmistakably, and unashamedly bats*** weird.
That said, the Ford Escape we were driving around in was — like all modern Fords — truly excellent. It was zippy enough, got great as-driven MPG, and was quiet enough to hold a conversation in. The nav system worked well enough, too. No surprises there. As “the only carmaker to not take a bailout,” excellence is expected.
What was not expected was that my companion for the day’s events was Chelsea Sexton, of EV1/”Who Killed the Electric Car” fame. If you can’t quite place the name to a face, here she is in a Spike TV interview, below.
After the Escape drive, we had a chance to listen to some Ford powertrain people talk about their new-for-2013 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, which offered about 20 miles of plug-in range before the 4-cylinder engine kicked in. There were a few issues I had with the car on paper, namely …
- No flex-fuel/ethanol support past E20
- No gearbox for the electric motor
- Unrequested kick-in for the ICE
… in practice, though, the car was actually nice to drive. Granted, we kept it around 25-30 mph around a coned-off section of Ford’s Proving Grounds and the point was to maximize the efficiency of the Fusion’s energy-recovery braking system rather than set a fast time, but it was (like the Escape) an excellent car that was easily on par with anything from Toyota or Honda and, possibly, the equal of an Acura or Volvo (whose engineers, it should be noted, probably had a few hands in the Fusion’s chassis since Volvo was owned by Ford as this car was being developed).
So, not at all a bad day.
Here are a few more pictures of the Ford Fusion drive. I’ll wrap this up in Part 3 of my Further With Ford coverage in a few days (once I get my Fiesta “personality” gift bag in the mail — you’ll see when it gets here). Enjoy!