Ford recently gave us the keys to a 2013 Ford Focus Electric in San Francisco, CA. Over the course of a long weekend we drove it all over the San Francisco bay area, to cities like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. While we managed to never run out of battery power, the weekend proved quite eventful as we plotted our course. After driving the 2013 Ford Focus Electric for five days we came away with this list of ten ways that electric vehicles could make or break your routine.
1. Hey buddy can I charge my car at your place?
-This is definitely something that will catch you and friends off guard. In addition to planning a fun excursion with friends you will often find yourself asking if your friend minds if you recharge your car in their driveway. Be prepared to explain how it's not actually that expensive to charge a car. It will only cost around $2 to $4 to fully charge an electric car.
2. That guy just walked right in front of me!
-Some automakers like Audi are working on artificial sounds for their nearly silent electric vehicles. Without the traditional engine sounds, many pedestrians will not hear you and will most likely just jump right in front of you. Be careful. A guy jumped right out in front of us in downtown San Francisco, since he didn't even notice that we were there. On the flip side it will be much easier for you to sneak out of your parents house since no one will hear you pull out of the garage.
3. Why do you keep tapping the brakes?
- In a traditional car, braking doesn't have any other benefits besides slowing a vehicle down. In an electric car, regenerative braking means that the brakes are able to re-capturing the kinetic energy of the electric vehicle's motion and send it back to the battery. You will find yourself braking whenever possible when your battery is low to get you down the road. The Focus Electric even shows you how effective you are braking, so you can recapture as much energy as possible.
4. VIP parking? Yes please!
-All over San Francisco and the Bay Area there are designated parking spots with chargers for electric vehicles. Many of these spots are near the entrance to parking garages or closer to the entrance of shopping malls. Since they are marked only for electric vehicles you can think of the spots like the handicap spots that are marked for disabled drivers and passengers. Another cool benefit of driving an electric vehicle, well at least in the Bay Area, was that many of the public charge ports were free. We managed to drive all weekend without having to pay for any of the electric power we used. Unfortunately as more electric vehicles are placed into service, the charge ports will most likely start charging for each use.
5. Does it matter how long I keep my car on a public charging port?
-In the over 100 years that we've been refueling cars at gas stations, it's widely known that once your car's tank is full you need to move to free up the pump for the next guy. But what about EV charging spots? Since the current chargers take hours to full recharge an electric vehicle, you aren't going to sit by your car while it's recharging. Right now there aren't any rules or EV charging etiquette that says how long you can use a charger. Is it rude to leave your car parked in a public spot like a mall for four hours or should you only charge as much as you need to get to your next destination? Even worse, what if you leave your car charging and an hour in, another electric car pulls up and its owner decides to unplug your car to charge his?
6. Your EV becomes a smartphone
-Thanks to many of the apps that automakers are developing for their electric cars, the cars feel like a large smart phone. The Ford Focus Electric comes with Ford's MyFord mobile app that shows the current state of the car's battery and how long it will take to recharge. You can also use the app to schedule charging times, plan out trips and find public charging ports. One big negative that we noticed though. In addition to making sure our iPhone was always charged, we now had to also make sure that our car had enough battery power to get us where we were going. Just a bit stressful...
7. Gas stations?
-You'll only be stopping at these to use the restroom or to grab a snack.
8. I'll be a few hours late. My car is charging.
-If you forget to plug your electric car overnight you will be doomed the next day. Until induction charging capabilities become available you will have to remember to plug your electric car in. Unfortunately this happened on our first day with the Focus Electric. We were late to dinner, since we had to wait for the battery level to reach a level that would get us there.
9. Where's the oil filter?
-Growing up one of my favorite past times with my Dad was to work on the family car. Changing the oil, rotating the tires, switching out spark plugs, were all fun things to do on a Saturday afternoon. Well if electric cars gain in popularity, this fun past time will become extinct.
10. Carpool lanes for one
-In California electric vehicles can drive in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOVs) lanes even if there is only one person in the car.
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