Tuesday, April 1, 2014

She's Gone

She's gone, she's gone
Oh I, oh I
I'd better learn how to face it

It's been a month since we took delivery of our 2013 Tuxedo Black Ford Focus Electric (FFE), and three weeks since we turned in the ActiveE. Seems like as good a time as any to compare the two vehicles. Mind you this isn't going to be a Car & Driver type comparo. It's a 'What's important to me' comparison. My blog, my rules. If these things aren't important to you, feel free to discount my opinions. You wouldn't be the first...

Entry Fee 
No matter how you slice it, its going to be tough to beat out a compliance car in regards to price - even for a limited production field trial vehicle where owners are expected to put up with the challenges associated with a beta test vehicle. And before you beat on me for labeling the FFE a compliance car when some don't consider it one, while some others do, in my mind it's clearly one. Why? Ridiculously low volume, not available in all markets (even though you could theoretically order one anywhere in the US), combined with price slashing and lease deals on existing inventory to move the cars.

Anyway, back to the comparison. For us the down payment was 5x higher for the ActiveE than the FFE, and the monthly payment was 3x higher. And this doesn't even include property tax and insurance differences that also favor the FFE.

Winner: By a landslide - FFE 

It's been previously documented that the ActiveE was a dirt magnet that required routine bathing. Prior to its arrival, I had convinced myself that the FFE would be different with the battery and motor locations being the opposite of the ActiveE. While my theory about static charge attracted dirt that would be swept away from the FFE at speed seems to have held, the FFE being black essentially negated the design induced hygiene benefit.

Winner: Push 

In the ActiveE, internal temperature is essentially the same as external temperature. Two winters in the car, and I never figured out how to consistently get the cabin warm before setting out. Even with preconditioning I never figured out why sometimes the cabin was warm, and others not so much. I'm going to guess that it was a function of how cold it actually was on some days, but never obtained enough data points to confirm. Suffice it to say, there were a lot of miserably cold drives this past winter. On the upside, the ActiveE did have the ability to limit precipitation to the outside of the vehicle. The FFE on the other hand, gets plenty warm inside (warmer than I actually like it) after just 10 minutes of preconditioning.

Winner: Score another one for the Folks from Dearborn - FFE

Clown Car Attributes
Four doors with actual rear seat legroom. Tons of hatch space even with the battery intrusion. The FFE is completely capable of accommodating your shopping and people moving needs. The ActiveE, on the other hand, requires the skills of a contortionist to get into the back seat and those of a Tetris Master to get a week's worth of groceries in the obstructed trunk.

Winner: FFE 

Nomadic Wanderings 
Neither of these vehicles is going to be mistaken for a Tesla or RAV4 EV in their ability to travel long distances with relative ease. While the ActiveE provides about 20 more miles per charge (in the summer), neither vehicle can get us to Boston or NYC without an interim charge en route. Due to the greater range of the ActiveE, said interim charge takes less time as the two vehicles have similar charging rates (or did before BMW stepped the rate down late in the program).

Winner: ActiveE 

Internal Opulence 
This one was a lot closer than I would have expected. Why? Most of the Focuses (Foci?) that I've been in were apparently base models. As a result, I didn't expect the interior of the FFE to be as nice as it actually is. The FFE essentially being clad in the Titanium trim package makes a huge difference. Clearly Ford knows something about designing a vehicle interior that the folks over in Detroit would do well to learn. That being said, even in 'Tuxedo Black' the FFE is not up to the level of luxury found in the ActiveE. When you are a luxury car brand that charges a luxury car premium, you'd better have a nicer interior than an econobox. 

Winner: By closer than the experts predicted, ActiveE 

Geek Squad® Worthy Tech 
Switching from the known and comfortable world of driving ICE to an EV will turn even the most carefree, fly by the seat of their pants driver into becoming a data geek. Why? The lack of adequate charging infrastructure combined with the time penalty associated with running out of charge results in drivers becoming more focused on the State of Charge and Driving Efficiency information provided by the vehicle.  Some of the cool stuff that the FFE can display with regards to range and efficiency can be found on JamieGeek's FFE Blog.  The ActiveE had nothing anywhere near this cool.  Having said that, I still prefer to just know my current State of Charge % and do the calculations in my head.  Not sure if that makes me more or less of a geek.

Winner: For me, the ActiveE with its SOC gauge, for everyone else, the FFE 

Driving Hedonism
Depending on who you talk to, 'The Ultimate Driving Machine' tagline may or may not be valid when referring to the current lineup of BMWs.  BMW purists say BMW sold out years ago and recent cars feel too detached from the driving experience.  They say BMW did it for the sake of moving metal.  To those folks I say, drive a Ford, you'll complain a lot less.

In every way, shape or form the ActiveE is more comfortable and enjoyable to drive.  From the lower seating position, to the regenerative braking, to the way that the car handles (regardless of its similarities to a certain DoD vehicle), the ActiveE is a car that's fun to take out for a drive.  Don't get me wrong, due to the electric drivetrain, the FFE is also fun - to a degree. But it just doesn't compare to the ActiveE and its spectacularly aggressive regenerative braking.  I had both cars in the driveway for almost two weeks, and I took the ActiveE preferentially every single time I left the house.  Did I mention the regenerative braking?

Winner: ActiveE.  Winning this category is the primary driver for why I'm still planning on an i3 in the driveway

Envy Factor 
Which car would you rather tell people you own: A limited edition prototype BMW where you are a test pilot for the Phase II field trial of their EV Project, or a low production volume econo-hatch with an electric drivetrain built by Ford to keep the folks at CARB off their backs? It's no coincidence that more people asked me about the ActiveE on the first day that I had it than have asked about the FFE in a month.

Winner: ActiveE

Clearly some of these things are more important to me.  However, weighted by importance or not weighted, this comparo yields the same outcome.  I find the ActiveE to be a much more enjoyable car to drive, and in the end, isn't that the most important thing - that we enjoy the car?  For some its price, for others efficiency, but in my case its about the drive, although a slightly warmer winter drive would've been nice...

Overall Winner: ActiveE

She's gone, she's gone
Oh I, oh I 
I'd pay the devil to replace her 

Wanna guess who the devil is???