LAS VEGAS – Today Ford announced the release of the 2012 Ford Focus Electric, its first-ever all-electric passenger car.
Commercially available in late 2011, the five-door hatchback’s expected range is 100 miles per charge, a distance that Ford says is enough to cover the average American’s daily driving habits.
According to Shawn Lightner, Ford’s program manager of electrified vehicles, the design of the Focus Electric is almost identical to its gas-powered sibling.
“We started with the base Focus platform so that we could utilize the scale of the vehicle to help reduce the cost and implement the electric motor inside that style,” he explains. “So we didn’t make a new platform; we simply integrated it into one of our existing models.”
While the vehicle is a hatchback, its form isn’t reminiscent of a leaf beetle. It looks (and plays) the part of a higher-end passenger car.
“Ninety percent of the parts are the same [as the 2012 Focus], between the gas and the electric,” says Lightner. “The most exciting thing is the human/machine interface and how you can communicate range and efficiency to the driver.”
Lightner is referring to one of Ford’s newest features, the MyFord Mobile technology, which connects the owner to the car by plugging in to control it remotely. This allows the driver to monitor state of charge, program charge settings and download data.
So, how does the Focus Electric stack up against its highly touted EV predecessors, the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt? According to Ford, the Focus Electric “will offer a mile-per-gallon equivalent better than Chevrolet Volt and competitive with other battery electric vehicles.”
The automaker also says a full recharge is expected to take three to four hours at home with the 240-volt charge station, which is half the charge time of the Nissan LEAF.
Those Volt and LEAF owners we previously interviewed noted that one of the best features of their EVs was the unexpected “pick-up” and power of their vehicles. According to Lightner, the Focus Electric will drive in a similar way. “It’s no golf cart,” he says with a laugh.
Because the Focus Electric’s base platform, its handling, steering and braking feel like that of a gas-powered vehicle, but without the emissions.
“The all-electric powertrain and single-speed transmission provides immediate responsiveness and smooth acceleration when the driver pushes down the accelerator, up to a top speed of 84 mph (136 kph),” reports Ford.
Focus Electric owners will charge their lithium-ion battery packs at home, more than likely on a daily basis. Lightner says Ford is complying with the SAE International standards for electric vehicles, a set of guidelines to define a common electric-vehicle charging network, thereby reducing costs and increasing convenience for EV owners.