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One of the great things about living in North America is that the land mass is so vast that there are large stretches with very low population density where you can occasionally escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life in more urban areas. The downside is that if you drive an electric vehicle, replenishing energy can be very problematic. We recently took a 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT
One of the concerns that Americans in particular have about EVs is the driving range. The idea of taking long transcontinental road trips is often raised as a barrier to EV adoption. But the reality is that most people rarely if ever drive thousands of miles across the continent unless they are long-haul truck drivers. The kind of trip that my wife and I just took is far more common.
In Michigan where we live, the largest portion of the population lives in the southeast corner of the state, but treks of a couple hundred miles for recreational activities in the rural north are so common that Friday and Sunday traffic jams of trucks and SUVs pulling boats, jet skis and snowmobiles on I-75 are de rigueur. Our most recent vacation had us flying into San Francisco and heading north into Sonoma County, a similarly common journey for bay area residents.
We’ve previously driven multiple variants of the Mach-E including both rear and all-wheel drive variants and a few hours in the high-performance GT. For this adventure Ford loaned me a Mach-E GT Performance Edition (PE). The GT gets the same larger motor used on the rear of other Mach-E models but at both axles for a total of 480-hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. The PE ups the torque output to 634 lb-ft but keeps the same peak power. The same 91-kWh extended range battery does duty but the PE gets larger (and heavier) 385-mm front brake rotors with 4-piston Brembo calipers. The PE also gets 20-inch Pirelli summer tires in place of the all-season performance tires on regular GTs as well as MagneRide dampers.
The extra torque and grippier rubber drop the 0-60 time from 3.8 to 3.5 seconds and in combination with those continuously variable dampers improves the handling. But the nearly 5,000-lb bulk of the GT PE and the added rolling resistance drop the driving range down to just 260-miles. For almost all daily driving, 260 miles of range is way more than people need since 80% or more of daily driving is less than 40 miles. If you have access to a plug, or better yet a 240V level 2 charger at home, you’ll be good to go. Even around most cities, there is enough access to public charging stations to cover most needs. That will of course change as the numbers of EVs on the road grows and demand for public charging stations with it.
The charging problem arises when you get away from cities. From the airport parking lot to our rental cottage in the forest, it was just about 100 miles. If you stick close to major highways like the 101 that leads away from the big red bridge, it’s all good. There are lots of places to stop with DC fast charging about every 20 miles or less in some cases. We stopped off and topped the battery at an EVGo station next to a Whole Foods in Santa Rosa while we picked up some groceries to stock the refrigerator.
Cruising at highway speeds consumes a lot more energy than driving around town and the 67 miles from the airport took up 26% of the charge. That works out to about 2.7 miles/kWh or about 245 miles of total range. When starting at a lower charge, the Mach-E will consume electrons at up to 150-kW but when starting at 74%, it’s about half that and it goes down from there. 40 minutes on the charger got the battery back to 98%. The surprisingly ample front trunk (something many other automakers aren’t offering on EVs) could hold three bags of groceries.
While we probably could have gotten by without a charge, my research indicated that public chargers were pretty much non-existent once you get more than a few miles west of Santa Rosa except for a couple of hotels with Tesla
It was also unclear if I would be able to park the car close enough to the cottage we rented to actually plug in. Thus I wanted to start with everything I could get since I also needed to make sure I had enough juice to get back to civilization even though we would only be about 30 miles west.
As it turned out, I was able to pull just close enough to the cottage for the included charging cable to reach the external outlet with about six inches to spare. While charging from a standard 120V outlet is leisurely at best. However, since we were typically not driving more than 30-40 miles per day to the beach or places like Marshall where we had an amazing meal at Tony’s seafood, I was able to keep the Mach-E mostly topped off from an overnight charge.
After four days in a cottage next to a creek surrounded by enormous redwoods, it was time to move on to our next destination, the Timber Cove Resort on the coast. Timber Cove is just up the road from Fort Ross, the early 1800s settlement established by the Russian fur traders that also gave the Russian River its name. There’s not a lot of stuff around Timber Cove, but my pre-trip research did indicate that they had two Tesla destination chargers on site. While these were unusable for the Mach-E, I hoped that they would at least have somewhere I could park near a plug.
When we arrived, we found a non-Tesla charger next to the Tesla units but it was marked out of order. At the check-in counter, I asked about any parking spaces near a plug and was told there was another charger in the overflow lot. When I got to it, a Jeep Compass driver had “courteously” kept the spot marked “Electric Vehicle Charging Only” warm for me.
I slotted in next to it using part of the pad for handicapped parking but fortunately it was large enough to provide plenty of clearance on both sides and still reach the cord. I used the Fordpass app to monitor the state of charge and repositioned the Mach-E as soon as it was done. At least with access to this charger, I knew I would have no concerns about getting back the 51 miles to Petaluma for a top up on the way back to SFO.
Despite weighing nearly two and a half tons, the Mach-E GT is surprisingly comfortable driving up California Route 1 along the coast. This is a magnificent piece of roadway for evaluating the handling characteristics of any vehicle. Someday, I’ll have to make the cross country trek in my first-generation Miata just to drive up the Pacific coast. This road rarely ever goes in a straight line for any length of time.
Others that have tested the Mach-E GT on race tracks have come away with less favorable impressions of its handling in sustained high-speed driving. That mass didn’t help lap times despite the impressive torque and as the battery heated up, performance dropped off. Fortunately that wasn’t a problem on the road.
Like many people, my spouse is not fond of twisty roads from the passenger side of the vehicle. Thus I didn’t really push the Mach-E to its limits like I might when driving solo. Using the 1-pedal driving mode, I was able to maintain a brisk but not ferocious pace while also being as smooth as possible. Being able to easily adjust my speed while modulating only the right pedal allowed me to keep perceptible acceleration and deceleration modest, but this beast nonetheless hustles down the road. As with other EVs, the low battery combined with the MagneRide dampers to also minimize body motions.
During the highway driving portions of the trip, I did make use of the BlueCruise hands-free driving assist capability. I’ve previously used BlueCruise on the F-150 and the Lincoln Navigator (where it is labeled as Active Glide) and was considerably less impressed than I have been with GM’s Super Cruise. One of my big complaints on the F-150 and Navigator was that the color themes on the digital instrument cluster make it less obvious when the mode has changed from hands-free to hands-on.
While I still think the lightbar in the upper portion of the GM steering wheel is the best solution, the Mach-E improves on the other models by having different color schemes for the cluster. When the headlights are off the Mach-E’s small instrument display is white, switching to grey when the lights are on. When BlueCruise hands-free mode is active, it switches to blue. The transition from blue back to white when I have to put my hands on the wheel, is much more noticeable in my peripheral vision while watching the road than just changing the blue on blue iconagraphy in the F-150. Ford still has other challenges to overcome like adjusting speeds in corners so that BlueCruise can stay active, but that is coming.
The mix of lower speeds on the twisty back roads and ample amounts of regenerative braking helped to raise the efficiency of the Mach-E to a more impressive 3.7 miles/kWh, enough to potentially exceed 330 miles on a charge. By the time we had made the return trip to the parking facility across from the airport, we had put almost 400 miles on the Mach-E GT and averaged a total of 3.3 miles/kWh which would provide just over 300 miles of range. I could have gotten by with just the charges when I got off and back on the 101. Overall, the Mach-E GT proved to be an excellent zero emissions vacation ride. As equipped the Mach-E I drove priced out to a grand total of $69,600 including delivery. Ford EVs are still eligible for the full $7500 federal tax credit, but the automaker is likely to hit 200,000 plug-in vehicle sales by the end of September and
If you live in a relatively rural area and you have the ability to charge an EV at home, modern longer-range vehicles can be a very viable option today. In urban/suburban areas there is an increasing number of DC fast charging stations within a reasonable distance that those without the ability to charge at home can visit once or twice a week and get by quite nicely. But if you don’t have the ability to plug in at night in a rural area, having to drive 30-50 miles to get to a DC charging station just isn’t even a workable solution, especially given the frequently reported unreliability of these chargers. For those people, it might be better to stick with internal combustion for a while longer.