The Focus Electric is Ford's first consumer-oriented battery-electric vehicle, based on the redesigned 2012 Ford Focus compact hatchback. Ford says the car's range will be "up to 100 miles," but the EPA hasn't rated the car yet. Nissan made the same claim for its Leaf electric car, whose range is EPA-rated at 73 miles.
As a battery-electric car with no gas backup, the Focus Electric's direct competitors are the Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Like Nissan, which has contracted AeroVironment to assess and install charging setups at buyers' homes, Ford will be working with Best Buy and its Geek Squad tech-support operation to manage third-party electrical contractors.
Ford estimates that a depleted Focus Electric battery pack will recharge in as little as three to four hours using a 240-volt home charging station, roughly twice as fast as the Leaf.
Pricing hasn't been announced, but the Focus Electric should be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit. It will begin delivery late in 2011 in select markets: Boston; Chicago; Denver; Detroit; Los Angeles; San Francisco; San Diego; Seattle; New York; Washington, D.C.; Orlando, Fla.; Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Houston; Phoenix; Tucson, Ariz.; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; and Richmond, Va.
The Focus Electric shares the overall shape of the Focus hatchback, but it has a few distinguishing elements. A dead giveaway is the charging port — which is surrounded by an LED display that indicates charge status while the car is plugged in — on the driver-side front fender. There are modest "Electric" badges all around.
The Focus Electric features a modified but still prominent grille — ironic because the electric car has less cooling demands than internal-combustion engines. The nose is otherwise smoother and is free of fog lights to improve aerodynamics. LED running lights adorn the headlight clusters. The wheels are distinctive 17-inch alloys with Michelin Energy Saver low-rolling-resistance tires.
The Focus Electric accommodates up to five occupants in standard cloth seats. The folding backseat is split 60/40 like the higher gas-powered trim levels. (Lower trims have a single-piece folding bench.) Other standard features include push-button start, a touch-screen navigation system and Sony nine-speaker stereo with Sirius Satellite Radio.
Twin LCD screens flank the speedometer, with a battery-charge display in place of a fuel gauge. The gauges can be configured to show charge range versus the anticipated distance of your trip, and they can also display a diagram to show the range situation at a glance. Bluish butterflies populate or disappear to indicate how efficiently you're driving and how much battery range you have versus your intended trip.
With a feature similar to those on the Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, owners can preheat or precool the cabin on grid power with the charging cable. This preserves the battery charge for miles of range once the car is unplugged and driven. (Heat and air conditioning use electric power, decreasing range.) The feature can be scheduled ahead of time or activated remotely using a MyFord Touch owner website or smartphone app.
Under the Hood
The Focus Electric uses a 23-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that's heated and cooled by liquid to maximize range and life expectancy. An electric motor or motors (yet to be announced) drive the front wheels to a top speed of 84 mph.
A 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger works with the 240-volt charging station to fill the battery pack in half the time required by the Leaf, according to Ford. (The Leaf's onboard charger has lower capacity and thus charges more slowly.) A 120-volt cord for charging from a common household outlet is included, but it takes at least three times as long as the 240-volt system. Ford estimates the charging station hardware and installation will cost about $1,499, but prices vary widely.
As required by law of all 2012 models, the Focus Electric has standard antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system. Six airbags are also standard.