Category Archives: Experience

Fill ‘er up

When I tell people that I have an electric car I get the usual spate of questions: Has it ever left you stranded? How far can you go? Do you have to charge it every day? (As if that is such a huge inconvenience!) What do you do if you run out while away from home?

The quick and simple answers are: No, about 75 miles, no, you plan so that doesn’t happen.

Lets start with charging and the big misnomer: The thing on the wall with the chord that you plug into the car is NOT a charger, its called an EVSE: Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. It is basically a smart GFI. The actual charging circuitry is inside the car. The EVSE provides a safe connection to electricity. There is a sense line where the car knows if it is plugged in or not, and how much current that the EVSE can provide to the car (which also determines how fast the car can charge up). The J1772 specification, which governs everything about EVSE’s, is actually spec’d out up to 80A (which could charge my car in about 2 hours or less if the car could handle it). The actual charge time is determined by the lesser of the supply current or the power rating of the internal charger in the car (my FFE’s charger is rated at 6.6kW). (The “No” answer above to: “Do you have to charge daily” is true depending on how much you drive. If you only drive 5 miles a day then no you don’t have to charge daily–just like an ICE car: If you empty the tank in a day then you have to get gas daily!)

Now the big deal, or at least it is for most people who ask, charging daily: You plug in your cell phone every day (sometimes more than once per day) how is that less of a hassle than plugging in the car? For myself I just get in the habit of plugging the car in every time I get home–every time, whether I know it will charge or not. It really only takes seconds to grab the cable, open the charge port door, and plug in (I do listen for the cycle the relays make as I’m unloading or locking or otherwise walking away from the car to make sure everything is working). For those few seconds I’m saving a 30 minute round trip to the gas station and back (of course this refers only to the times when I make a specific trip to the gas station, but even just stopping on my way in to work adds 10-15 minutes to my commute).

Here is something to think about as well: If you plug in daily, and charge nightly then every morning the car has a “full tank”. What “range anxiety”? I rarely drive more than about 60 miles a day. On a normal day I barely look at the battery gauge; don’t even give it a passing thought. Conversely when I get into one of our ICE vehicles the first thing I do is check the gas gauge to see if I have enough!

You do have to get a Level 2 charger at home though, that makes all the difference (Level 2 = 240V and can charge the car at its maximum rate). The “convenience chord” that comes with the car (most EVs come with one) is called a Level 1 chord that can be plugged into 120V–the slowest possible speed to charge (up to 20 hours in my case). I was able to find a deal through my electric company that covered most of the cost of the install..


There is another aspect of driving an electric vehicle that is different from a conventionally powered car: the motor/engine. The torque curves for the different power plants tells the story here.
An internal combustion engine’s torque curve is a curve that always starts at zero for zero RPM and generally increases to a point of maximum at a specific RPM then levels off, or even falls at higher RPM. Thus the transmission is designed to keep the engine close to the max torque during acceleration to get max torque to the wheels.
An electric motor’s torque curve is quite different: it’s max torque is at zero RPM and will typically decrease linearly as the RPM increases. Note that the max power draw will also occur when developing max torque at zero RPM as well because there is no resistance. (As the RPM increases the rotating magnetic field induces currents which increase the resistance reducing the current draw.)
Since you get max torque at zero RPM you can be a stoplight king in an electric car. Zipping away from green lights surprising other drivers around and, in some cases, passengers in your own car. (Especially because your doing it without a sound.) As you continue, though, your acceleration will decrease and the ICE cars will catch up at some point.
I’ve seen two different specifications for the Focus Electric: one says the car uses a permanent magnet motor, and the other says that it uses a synchronous one. A permanent magnet motor, as I understand it, is a DC motor which would mean that it has brushes–brushes tend to wear out. A synchronous motor, on the other hand, makes much more sense for an electric vehicle: it’s an AC motor (no brushes), the RPM is controlled by the AC frequency, and it is also either a motor or generator simply based on the phase of the AC.
Next up: charging: what does EVSE stand for and what are Level 1 and Level 2 EVSEs.


Driving a BEV is an interesting and quiet experience.

Many compare it to driving an electric golf cart around. There is a little of that, but in a golf cart you don’t have a modern car fully enclosing you with its conveniences, safety systems and sound absorbing materials.

The FFE starts with the 2012 Focus glider (the body/frame if you will). As I mentioned in earlier posts: The 2012 ICE Focus is an excellent car in its on right. For the 18 months that I drove the conventional Focus I got quite accustomed to its driving characteristics: The peppy acceleration, the way it grips the road, the very excellent brakes, how really solid it feels. Moving on to the FFE introduces a whole new element to the mix: silence. Sure there is a slight whirring noise (much like the aforementioned golf cart) but that is dampened by the thick foam you find under the hood. Once you are up to a reasonable speed (about 35 or more miles an hour) the most noise you’ll hear is some slight tire noise and the thoughts in your head.

Stopping at a light becomes almost zen like; you notice all the other cars around you buzzing, shaking, rattling, etc. (Note that hybrid and auto stop cars also get this effect as they turn off the gas engine at lights as well). The first time I drove the FFE in the rain I found the first traffic light quite interesting as I was left sitting there waiting for the green listening to the raindrops bounce off the top of the car. Then the light turns green and you hit the accelerator.