The Ford Focus Electric

Ford unveiled the Focus Electric at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year and plans to put it on the road as a 2013 model.

focus electric
Images from Ford Motor Company

by Aaron Turpen

Specs:

  • Type: Dedicated electric vehicle
  • Class: 5-door Compact
  • Manufacturer: Ford Motor Co
  • Propulsion system: Battery Electric
  • Top Speed: 84mph
  • Fuel(s): Electricity
  • Battery system: Lithium-ion
  • Time to full battery recharge: 3-4 hours (240V)
  • Price: Not announced
  • Availability: 2013

The manufacturer says

"Focus Electric is the flagship of our new family of electrified vehicles, showcasing our commitment to offer consumers choice when it comes to fuel-efficient or fuel-free vehicles. Its advanced powertrain will deliver significant energy efficiency advantages and zero CO2 emissions without compromising driving enjoyment. And its suite of smart driver information technologies will transform the way customers think about energy usage and their transportation needs."

Overview

Ford has finally introduced the battery electric Ford Focus Electric utilizing the International CES rather than a traditional car show to showcase the new vehicle's production prototype. The Focus Electric will be based on the up-fitted, gasoline (and now also diesel) version of the Focus platform with only drive train and some electronics modifications. To the naked eye, only small changes in the grille and a lack of tailpipe will give the electric away.

focus charging

This will be the first Ford vehicle to be electrified entirely in-house. The Transit Connect Electric is a conversion by Ford partner Azure Dynamics. The Focus Electric will be a major stepping stone in Ford's planned electrification strategy and will see all final assembly at a Ford plant in Michigan.

The battery cells for the Focus are made by LG Chem and assembled into battery packs in Holland, Michigan at LG-owned Compact Power Inc. These batteries for the Focus Electric make a 23kWh capacity pack with a liquid cooled and heated system. This maximizes efficiency and allows the battery to put out enough power to run the 100kW AC permanent magnet motor. This motor gives 92kW of output (peak, 123hp) with a torque rating of 181lb-ft (246Nm).

The batteries provide a guessed 100 miles of range (Ford does not yet specify range) on a full charge, which requires 3 to 4 hours at 240 volts or up to 20 hours on 120 volts. The Focus Electric comes with a 120V charge controller and cord built-in and has an optional 240V charging station available from Best Buy directly or through a dealership.

Ford is still awaiting EPA ratings for fuel efficiency and actual driving range, but the numbers are expected to be close to or superior to those of the Nissan Leaf.

A host of electronic options will also be standard equipment on the Focus Electric, a lot of them due to the long-standing partnership between Ford and Microsoft. These include connectivity with Microsoft Hohm, smart grid integration for charging, and in-vehicle, on-demand technologies through MyFord Touch.

focus charger

What we like

Innovation, Competition is the driving force behind Ford's Focus Electric, it appears. The extreme connectivity via Microsoft's partnership and the host of on-board tools are amazing. The charging port on the car itself even gives visual confirmation of the state of charge when plugged in, having display rings that light up as cells receive juice, becoming fully lit when fully charged. The Focus will also give real competition to the Nissan Leaf, which is currently the only all-electric car in the mass market.

Availability will be as soon as next year in some areas and by 2013 for everyone. Although that's still a couple of years down the road, at least it's not indefinite.

What we don't

Lack of Price Point is a real concern here. Ford hasn't announced a price point, but we can guess it will (have to) be comparable to the Nissan Leaf if the car is to be competitive. The wait for the EPA numbers to give an estimated range is a calculated strategy on Ford's part, since Nissan took a fairly heavy PR blow when their 100 mile range was shot down to 73 by the EPA last year.

Still a Small Car that won't compete in the largest vehicle market in America: mid-sized family vehicles. This beef isn't against Ford in particular, since every EV manufacturer is ignoring this market, but against the technology itself, which can't economically be rendered in a mid-sized platform. Families require seating for 4+ and enough cargo room to carry the stuff those four people might have. This means a mid-sized, large-trunk car or a minivan/SUV.

Conclusions

The electric Focus is slated for release in late 2012 as a 2013 model in select cities and will then proliferate throughout North America. It's expected to be the first real competition for the Nissan Leaf and one of the premier launches that Ford has planned for the next half-decade.

It will be another viable, realistic entry into the electric car marketplace and one of those vehicles that helps convince the public that EVs can be ìregular cars." Unlike some of the other competition that will appear at the same time, such as the Tesla Model S, it will likely be priced affordably for many Americans.

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