Coffee Talk #637: Ford Focus Electric and the Gamification of Driving

Driving a Ford Focus Electric has a lot of similarities to playing videogames on a home console. In the immortal word of Christopher Cross, “It sounds crazy, but it’s true.” The Ford Focus Electric has a system of achievements, scores, and leaderboards that supplement the driving experience, similar to how PlayStation and Xbox consoles have these features to supplement the videogame experience. For certain drivers (i.e. nerdy ones), it makes driving more fun.

On the “My Driving” page on, Ford Focus Electric drivers can keep track of their “Brake Score” and “Driving Score.” The former measures how well or poorly the driver uses the car’s regenerative breaking system. The latter factors in overall acceleration, breaking, and speed. The goal is to encourage Ford Focus Electric drivers to use their cars more efficiently and get the most out of every battery charge. For gamers and people that just like racking up high scores, this feature can be incredibly appealing.

MyFordMobile Trip Log (Ford Focus Electric)

Achievement whores will enjoy driving the Ford Focus Electric, simply because they can unlock achievements. breaks up achievements into three categories: driving, environmental impact, and community. The categories are self-explanatory and appeal to different types of drivers. Those that care most about single-player achievements will focus on driving, tree huggers will want to rack up as many impact achievements as possible, and those with multiplayer leanings will enjoy unlocking community achievements. Again, it’s a fun way to supplement the Ford Focus Electric driving experience for people that know and enjoy these kinds of gaming systems, while those that are unfamiliar or dislike gamification can ignore this aspect of the vehicle.

MyFordMobile Achievements (Ford Focus Electric)

Naturally, the biggest difference between the Ford Focus Electric’s various scores and achievements compared to their videogame counterparts is the way they’re presented. Whether you drive a Ford Focus Electric or see one on the road, you want all drivers to be focused on the road and driving conditions. You do not want someone zipping along, getting giddy from a dashboard achievement notification, taking their eye off of the road, and smashing into you. With that in mind, Ford Focus Electric scores and achievements can only be viewed on, while leaderboards can be viewed on the MyFordMobile website and app. While this takes away the instant gratification of unlocking an achievement in a videogame, it’s safer for everyone on the road.

Speaking of leaderboards, this is probably the most robust gamification feature in the MyFordMobile system. There are currently six leaderboards: Braking Expert, EV Stretcher, EV Tour Guide, Kinetic Ninja, Renaissance Man, and Zen Master. The leaderboards are currently broken up into 14 regions that span America and Canada. You can read the descriptions of each leaderboard and see examples in the image gallery below.

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I know that many of you hate the term gamification and what it usually entails, but in the case of the Ford Focus Electric, it’s pretty cool. Achievements, scores, and leaderboards on provide ancillary features that make driving a Ford Focus Electric more fun. These features certainly aren’t for everyone, but for gamers and competitive people, they enhance the driving experience.

As a lifelong videogame nerd, these gamification features make me hit up at least daily (usually after every trip, if time permits). I enjoy unlocking achievements. It’s fun trying to maximize my “Brake Score” and “Driving Score.” While I don’t care for what muscle cars and rice rockets bring to the table, I’m all about nerding up driving. That’s exactly what Ford has done with the gamification features of the Ford Focus Electric.

What do you guys and gals think of these features? Do you think that’d you enjoy them? Or are you annoyed by the proliferation of gamification? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, the WWE Battleground PPV, Steven Gerrard retiring from English football duty, or the irritating Netflix vs. Verizon feud, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Coffee Talk #634: 2014 Nissan Leaf vs. Ford Focus Electric

After getting smitten by the 2014 Nissan Leaf, but having a mostly lousy shopping experience, I’ve decided to take a look at the 2014 Ford Focus Electric. In some ways, the Ford Focus Electric is a much better car than the Nissan Leaf. In other ways, it’s lacking. Let’s do a binary breakdown of the 2014 Ford Focus Electric vs. 2014 Nissan Leaf. These opinions are fresh off a test drive of the Ford Focus Electric. Since I wrote about the Nissan Leaf last column, I’ll be thinking through this one with the Ford Focus Electric in mind.

Good: The Ford Focus Electric handles better than the Nissan Leaf. The suspension is a little bit better and the steering is much, much better. With the Leaf, you’re able to steer nimbly, but you don’t really feel anything; it’s like controlling a really powerful golf cart. The Ford Focus Electric lets you feel more of the road and has more responsive steering. While I wouldn’t call it sporty by any means, it’s certainly a more compelling drive than what the Leaf offers.

Bad: My biggest issue with the Ford Focus Electric is the lack of a quick-charge port. While its “level 2” charging is faster than most (3.6 hours to fill), it’s odd that the car doesn’t have a quick-charge port. The Nissan Leaf has the option for a CHAdeMO port, which allows you to charge the battery to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. There are several CHAdeMO chargers in my area, including a few that let you charge for free. This is a nice option to have. While I can certainly get by with the Ford Focus Electric’s relatively fast charging, a quick-charge option would offer more freedom and flexibility. In some ways, a quick-charge port is the EV equivalent of a condom — I rather have one and not need it than need one and not have it. (Oops, that analogy was supposed to stay in my inner monologue.)

Good: Another advantage for the Ford Focus Electric is that it has a liquid-cooled battery (active), as opposed to the Leaf’s air-cooled battery (passive). Extreme heat can lower a battery’s range (cold temperatures can too, but I don’t have to worry about that in Los Angeles). The Ford Focus Electric’s active cooling scheme will help the battery last longer, both in the short term (my concern, since I’m looking for a three-year lease) and the longterm.

Bad: Nissan created an original design for the Leaf, so its battery packs are smartly distributed. The Ford Focus Electric uses an existing design, so compromises were made to jam the battery into it. The end result is a slightly smaller backseat than the ICE Focus and a much smaller trunk. I knew that the trunk was going to be small based off of photos, but seeing it in real life surprised me. You can fit a couple of bags of groceries in there…and that’s about it. You can forget about picking up friends with lots of luggage from the airport (though, “Sorry, my trunk is too small,” can be a great excuse). The Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, has more room in the backseats and much more usable trunk space.

Good: The Ford Focus Electric is available in one trim and the options are very, very nice. It beats the pants off of the Nissan Leaf’s S and SV trims, while being competitive or better than the top-of-the-line Leaf SL. While the initial price of the Ford Focus Electric is higher, adding options to the Nissan Leaf SL makes it a tougher choice. The interior components of Focus are nicer than most of what the Leaf offers.

Judgement Call: Some people prefer the Ford Focus Electric because it looks normal. There are some consumers that hate the atypical looks of the Nissan Leaf. I totally understand both sides. If you want a inconspicuous and unassuming EV that blends in then the Ford Focus Electric is your car. Personally, I dig the Leaf’s nerdy-as-hell aesthetics because it’s nerdy-as-hell.

Ford Focus Electric 2014

The good news is that I had a great test drive of the Ford Focus Electric at Airport Marina Ford. The bad news is that when it came time to get pricing, the fleet manager was coy and wouldn’t let the salesman give me a price unless I was ready to buy on the spot. I also pulled a quote off of the Ford website with the lease terms I wanted, but the salesman said that the website quotes are inaccurate because they factor in discounts that I’m not eligible for. I left the dealership knowing that the monthly payments they’d charge me were higher than what I found on the Ford website, but lower than $300. That wasn’t exactly helpful.

The better news is that while I really like the Ford Focus Electric and would gladly snatch one up at the lease price listed on the Ford website, it’s more of a compromise than the Nissan Leaf. Yes, it drives better and has a much nicer interior, but I would get more use out of the Leaf’s trunk space and larger backseats. While the liquid-cooled battery is a great feature, the lack of a quick-charge port limits the Ford Focus Electric for me, since I live in an apartment.

The (hopefully) best news is that the salesman I’ve been working with at Alhambra Nissan found the exact model and color of the Nissan Leaf SV that I want. In my last column, I mentioned that I enjoyed working with this gentleman because he gave me honest and straightforward info over email, without pressuring me to come to the dealership. Now that he has the car that I want and I know what his prices are for more expensive models, I’m happy to drop by the dealership and see him. Whether I end up in a Nissan Leaf SV through him or a Ford Focus Electric through another Ford dealership, hopefully I’ll be in an EV by next week.

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, your Fourth of July plans, NBA free agency madness, or your favorite fireworks, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.