Five Island Beaches, One 2017 Ford Fusion Energi – Can It Be Done on EV Power Alone?
The planning session was brief. At TTAC’s virtual HQ, also known as TTAC Slack, Steph Willems, Corey Lewis, and Adam Tonge were busy formulating an idea.
Fascinated by the Cain family’s recent move to rural Prince Edward Island, the guys wondered if, on electric power alone, Ford’s plug-in hybrid 2017 Fusion Energi SE could cross Prince Edward Island from the north side’s Gulf of St. Lawrence to the south side’s Northumberland Strait, which separates Prince Edward Island from mainland Canada.
Sure it can, I said, but that’s too easy. There are many narrow parts of Prince Edward Island. Crossing Rte. 308’s nine miles from Naufrage to Rollo Bay wouldn’t be much of a challenge.
Building on that idea, however, we developed a plan that would grant yours truly a midday office reprieve, or so I thought. From the Cain homestead in Margate, just outside the bustling metropolis of Kensington, I would depart with a fully charged 2017 Ford Fusion Energi and attempt to reach five spectacular beaches along the Gulf of St. Lawrence on PEI’s so-called Green Gables Shore.
Google Maps said I would need to travel 22 miles. The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi has 23 miles of pure EV range. This’ll be a breeze, I thought to myself, and I fled my office and TTAC’s virtual HQ minutes later, thoroughly unprepared for what came next.
Let’s be honest. If you’re looking for an electric car that can ferry you to a Prince Edward Island beach quintet, the Ford Fusion Energi ain’t it. This conventional midsize car was simply waiting for a plug-in compromise to smack it upside the head. As a result, it’s not much of an electric car, not in an era of Chevrolet Bolts with 238 miles of range.
The Fusion Energi is also not great at being a Fusion. All of that battery technology creates a midsize Ford that weighs 3,900 pounds. 118 horsepower from the electric motor — combined system horsepower is 188 — is entirely insufficient. The plug-in hybrid accoutrements also shrink trunk capacity from the regular Fusion’s 16 cubic feet to a measly, awkwardly shaped 8 cubic feet. If you’re taking a family of five to the beach, don’t take a cooler or many beach toys. (Fortunately, the seats still fold so I was able to pick up plenty of lumber at Home Depot earlier this week.)
With all that weight, a very softened suspension, and low-rolling resistance Michelin Energy Saver A/S 235/45R18 tires, this is not the sharp, Euro-esque Fusion to which you’ve grown accustomed in the past. Brake feel is inconsistent and unpredictable, the steering lacks sharpness, body roll is all too evident, and the sole redeeming dynamic behavior is the Ford’s unimpeachable ride quality. The Fusion Energi SE is an exceptionally comfortable place to spend time, but if regular Fusions can be easily confused with drivers’ cars, this one can’t.
Nevertheless, this was the week — not during the AMG C43 Cabriolet or MX-5 RF or Odyssey Touring tests I’ve been privileged to undertake since moving to PEI — in which my esteemed colleagues devised the plan. Besides, I wasn’t going to be driving the Fusion Energi quickly on roads I normally criss-cross with enthusiasm — I had EV range to protect.
Protecting that range was going to be essential on a near 90-degree day and hilly terrain. Windows must stay up at every possible moment to preserve the Fusion’s aerodynamic profile. Air conditioning? Bozi Tatarevic insisted I forsake both A/C and audio. With rear seats folded and the passenger seat reclined to maximize aero — surely I jest — I pulled away from Margate’s relatively high traffic Rte. 6 and hit my first red dirt road seconds later.
The plan, so quickly developed, was perfect. I could have chosen five beaches closer together, but that would have lessened the Fusion Energi’s challenge. Moreover, a couple of those beaches required extremely rough tractor routes on which I’d prefer to drive something other than a Ford Canada-supplied Fusion press car.
I would head out to the north shore by way of Spring Valley and stop first at Thunder Cove in Darnley. Popular but far from overrun, Thunder Cove isn’t far from Twin Shores, a massive campground.
I’d then move east to Adams Beach in Sea View and then quickly examine the beach near Branders Pond Beach, as well. In Park Corner, I’d take the long hill down to Cousins Shore Beach, where there’s something that resembles an arranged parking lot and likely more than a couple of souls treading water. Finally, I’d hustle through scenic French River up to Cape Road’s Yankee Hill Beach, one of the few places I’ve visited in Prince Edward Island where swimming is cautioned against.
Typically, PEI beaches are especially safe. Once you’re down a red cliff — do be careful and stay far from the edge, erosion is happening now — or over a sandy white dune, the shore slopes gently and lazily into the water. With many summer days free from substantial surf, there are countless places to take young children to safely play at the water’s edge. This is especially true where the tide forsakes its relationship with The Island’s Northumberland Strait south shore, leaving acres of red sand on which to play golf from one sandbar to the next, at least until the tide gently eases its way back in a few hours later.
After telling the Fusion Energi I wanted to remain in EV mode, not Auto, and being careful not to plant the throttle too close to the mat, I was in and out of somewhat busy Thunder Cove in no time, headed for Adams Beach. There wasn’t a soul to be found at beach No.2 aside from some cottage dwellers preparing lunch on their patios behind the dunes. I still had access to an LTE network, so I sat in the Fusion with the doors open while I cropped a picture and sent it to my colleagues. Connection with the working world maintained, I set out for the beach at Branders Pond, a family favorite.
There was another car at the bottom of the hill, but my quick walk down to the beach for a photo revealed no evidence of humanity. It’s no wonder — there are 500 miles of beaches in Prince Edward Island, plenty of space for others to be elsewhere. The silence can still be totally overcome by the sound of even a small wave washing up on shore.
Likewise, the eery silence of an electric car, or a Fusion plug-in hybrid doing a brief impression of an electric car, is broken up by suspensions at work, or even the hint of a squeak behind the passenger seat that surely wouldn’t be noticeable were it not for the overall hush. In general, however, the quiet of an EV’s cabin is symptomatic of luxury. It’ll be a difficult task in the near-term for automakers such as Ford to perfect NVH in cars that make next to no noise, create essentially no vibration, and scarcely understand the meaning of harshness.
Leaving the stunning backdrop of Branders Pond, I end up squeezing down the narrow Cousins Shore Road between a new Jeep Compass and an old Toyota Sienna, conscious of the Fusion’s girth and also its stunning $395 Ruby Red paint. I want to stop for photos the whole way down; the light is just so. But the traffic, oh my, the traffic. There have to be, oh, two dozen beachcombers at Cousins Shore today, some playing in the stream that leads from farmland to beach, others flattened by Canadian heat.
As I leave Cousins Shore, however, I’m cognizant of the distance I must now travel to the farthest-flung beach on my route: French River’s Yankee Hill. Yes, hill. That means the Fusion must, at the very end of its journey, rise up from the idyllic fishing hamlet of French River past one of PEI’s many golf courses to Cape Road. Sure, I’ll then coast down the other side of Yankee Hill, past the potato fields and into the parking lot, but first the Fusion Energi has to get me there.
By the time we enter French River, not the river itself but you know what I mean, we’ve travelled farther than we were supposed to. Clearly my Google mapping wasn’t perfectly accurate, the pinpoints weren’t accurately positioned at the bottom of each hill.
According to the onboard I have 1km of range to get up and over that hill to the end of Cape Road and beach #5. pic.twitter.com/FgzU4c2b0C
— Timothy Cain (@timcaincars) July 20, 2017
By the time I reached French Village, I should have completed only 20.6 miles, but I’d already driven 23.3 miles, three-tenths of a mile more than the Fusion’s EV range. Though let down somewhat by higher-than-city speeds and perhaps by the heat, the Fusion Energi was aided by long downhill regen opportunities and my self-sacrificing behavior. By this point, the armrest was literally flooded with sweat and my eyebrows were raining.
There was another 1.6-mile journey to complete, but the Fusion Energi’s onboard computer was telling me I had only six-tenths of a mile of EV capability remaining.
I ease up River Road, past one of PEI’s most photographed scenes, and turn right onto Cape Road.
The suspense is killing me. Or maybe it’s the dehydration. Why didn’t Corey, Steph, Adam, or Bozi ever suggest that I go out on this grand adventure accompanied by fluids? Why didn’t Mrs. Cain, who knew about my plans for all of 30 seconds, biff bottles of refrigerated water out the door through the Fusion’s sunroof?
Hmm. Why didn’t I remember to close the garage door on my way out of Margate?
Forget my physical pain. Moments later, I was defeated.
The Fusion Energi was defeated.
We were eight-tenths of a mile from Yankee Hill Beach and the Fusion Energi’s EV mode called it quits.
But wait a second. The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi SE and I completed 24 miles of a purported 22-mile journey with 23 miles of EV range.
And suddenly, I care a whole lot less about the abnormally soft rear end, the dearth of real power, the trunk that can’t take a cooler to the beach, and the U.S.-market $31,995 price of entry. (It’s $37,465 as-tested but currently discounted to the tune of $7,757.)
The Fusion Energi and I accomplished something together.
We beat the house. We laid waste to the laboratory tests.
Finally, after removing my flip-flops at four beaches to run into the sand for photos at Thunder Cove, Adams Beach, Branders Pond, and Cousins Shore, I take time to step into the water at Yankee Hill. Should I swim? You better believe I want to, but unprepared without proper attire or even a towel to protect the Fusion’s leather, I resist the urge.
It’s not like I’m far from any one of the five, or from numerous others, if I venture out again later.
Instead, I let the Fusion Energi’s air conditioning wash over me like a cold facecloth as I take the 11-mile journey home. See, that’s what you can do in a plug-in hybrid when you’re at your fifth beach of the day, 12 miles from the nearest EV charging station.
Get in and drive.
Maybe the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi SE isn’t The Future. But completing a 36-mile rural round trip to five pristine Prince Edward Island beaches by using only three-tenths of a gallon is a pretty fair use of the here and now.
[Images: © Timothy Cain, Tourism PEI, Google Maps]
Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.
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I was privileged to visit PEI twice when I lived in Canada and it is truly a gorgeous place. There are lots of hills in PEI and one I would imagine has to plan their day carefully when it comes to electric vehicles or pretty much anything else although there's always a Sobey's or Atlantic Superstore around the corner. I would imagine some of those PEI roads would make for a great rally.