2013 Ford Fusion Energi test drive: Ford does gamification

Electric vehicles are becoming all the rage these days, and Ford is looking to make a dent in the market with their own offerings. They have a small variety of hybrid vehicles, but I ended up checking out the 2013 Fusion Energi and giving it a brief test ride around one of Ford's test tracks at their headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. One of the big features that the company is touting is the inclusion of gamification, which aims to encourage drivers to drive more efficiently on the road by providing a drive score.

This was my first time behind the wheel of any kind of electric vehicle, so I was a bit nervous at the start, which is odd since there was nothing to really be nervous about. It mostly came down to the fact that I wasn't sure what to expect out of an electric vehicle, but I came to find out the car handled almost exactly like a normal car does.

However, one of the most obvious differences is that the Fusion Energi can run off of a battery, so when you start the car up, there's no cranking of the engine or the all-too-familar whirring noise of an idling vehicle. Instead, when you start it up, you're treated with absolute silence, making you wonder if the car even turned on. Indeed, it did, and off I went.

Handling of the Fusion Energi wasn't all too different from a traditional gas-guzzling vehicle, although the brakes were extremely touchy – something that I find to be the case for a lot of newer cars, especially from Ford. In this case, it's partially down to the regenerative braking in the Fusion Energi, meaning that the kinectic energy caused by braking is converted and used to power other portions of the vehicle.

As for acceleration, it was pretty superb, and the lightest touch of the gas pedal sprung me forward a few miles-per-hour for every time I applied more pressure to the gas pedal. I didn't get it up quite to highway speeds during my drive, but I felt that the Fusion Energi would be more than a good option for daily commutes at the least.

On the inside, you have a comfy interior, and the center console includes your usual set of controls, and the touch screen up top allows you to adjust a number of settings with the tap of a finger, as well as get turn-by-turn directions and all sorts of media options. The instrument panel also includes some digital displays as well, with one that shows you how much battery you have left, as well as your mileage.

This display also gives you your drive score and brake score during your drive. You have a brake score that gives you a score out of 100% that's based on how efficient your braking was. For instance, taking your foot off the gas, coasting, and then slowly applying the brake until you come to a gentle stop will most likely score you in the high 90% range, while stopping suddenly and creating a whiplash effect will give you a very low brake score.

The drive score is an overall score based on your driving habits. It accounts for braking, acceleration, top speed, and even interior features that use up energy, such as the air conditioning. Drivers are more likely to earn a high score for accelerating and braking gently, as well as keeping their top speed at the speed limit. However, the overall drive score is much harder than getting a good brake score. I was able to earn the best brake score out of all the other test drivers that day, but I found that getting a good overall drive score was a lot harder than I anticipated.

Essentially, Ford is encouraging drivers to drive more efficiently on the road using this clever gamification system. It's proven that human beings love statistics and having the best score, whether that'd be through video games are other forms of activities. Adding a video game-like experience to everyday tasks makes them not only more enjoyable and engaging, but it can also make you better at these activities by attempting to do the best job you can in order to score points and level up, so to speak.

Ford says that their new Fusion Energi can go up to 620 miles on a full charge and on a full tank of gas, with a rated fuel mileage of 100 MPGe. The price is where reality sinks in, however. The Fusion Energi starts just short of $39,000, but it's on par with its competition, with the Chevy Volt also priced in the $39,000 range. Then again, the only question you need to ask yourself is if the higher cost is worth the investment, seeing as you won't need to fill up the gas tank as often.