2014 Ford Fusion Energi
2014 Ford Fusion Energi. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Haney Louka

Since the first hybrids hit the market more than ten years ago, the thought of being able to drive entire stretches of my commute without running the gas engine piqued my interest in this technology. There’s one particular two-kilometre stretch by Memorial Park, over the Osborne bridge and through the Village in Winnipeg where choosing to drive home from downtown at the wrong time will frequently allow drivers to marvel at pedestrians’ ability to outpace them.

The first time I drove a Prius in this scenario I was able to loaf along at a snail’s pace without using but a drop of petrol. And that’s where hybrids shine.

I was fascinated, then, last autumn when I first got my hands on a Fusion Energi and managed to drive my entire 12-km commute to work on electric power, regardless of the pace of traffic. I even had enough juice left in the battery pack to make it most of the way home again without recharging it.

But that was then, and this is winter.

Ford has loaned me one of their Ford Fusion Energi press cars for six weeks in the depths of our Prairie winter. And this year, even though very little of our great nation has been spared the Old Man’s wrath, it has been a particularly challenging one in the centre of the country with extended stretches of minus-30 weather accompanied by truly exceptional wind chills to make this the coldest winter in recent memory. It doesn’t help that we’ve seen 63 percent higher snowfall than normal as well. Usually it’s one or the other; this winter we get both. At least we have a few gold medals to show for it.

Plug-in hybrid technology slots between conventional hybrid and full electric technology. Technically it has more in common with a conventional hybrid – an Atkinson-cycle engine that is highly efficient but characteristically low in torque and thus well-suited to being paired with a torquey electric motor. But this is a hybrid with a twist: the lithium-ion battery pack has a total energy of 7.6 kWh (the regular Fusion Hybrid’s battery has but 1.4 kWh).

2014 Ford Fusion Energi2014 Ford Fusion Energi
2014 Ford Fusion Energi. Click image to enlarge

And rather than just relying on the gas engine and regenerative braking to charge the battery pack, the car includes a standard SAE J1772 plug interface to allow charging from the grid. A full charge from a 120V power source (what everyone has at home) takes 7 hours; hook the pack up to a 240V source and that time drops to 2.5 hours.

The Fusion is not the only plug-in hybrid on the market; Ford also makes the C-Max with the same powertrain and Toyota offers a plug-in version of its Prius hybrid. And Honda has introduced a plug-in version of its Accord hybrid, but it’s available south of the border only.

As with most electrified cars, this one holds big promise: according to the US EPA, this is a 100 mile-per-gallon (equivalent) car. The MPGe figure is intended to represent the car’s combined consumption of gasoline and electricity. Transport Canada’s figures show a combined rating of 1.9 L/100 km, which equates to 124 miles per equivalent U.S. gallon; a figure we expect to be optimistic.

But how optimistic? Ford’s press material gives the Energi a pure-electric range of 34 km; we will be putting the system to the test by monitoring its range in various temperatures and with different heating loads and looking at whether the gas engine is relied upon in cold weather even when there’s a charge in the battery pack.

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