- Competes with: Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt
- Looks like: Ford collaborated with Aston Martin on the Focus' grille
- Drivetrain: Electric motor with undisclosed power ratings and transmission
- Hits dealerships: Late 2011
Everyone knew this day was coming, but it's finally here. This is Ford's answer to the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt. However, Ford has gone a different route, putting its new electric powertrain in a current gasoline model. And we all know how well this concept went for those trying to battle the Toyota Prius with hybrid versions of existing cars. Ford announced the vehicle today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but it will also be on display at the Detroit auto show next week.
At a Detroit-area media briefing last month, Ford made some bold claims regarding its new Focus EV, which is set to go on sale late this year. Ford says the car can get a full charge on a 240-volt outlet in three to four hours, compared with the eight hours it takes to charge the Leaf with a 240-volt outlet.
Though pricing is still pending, the Focus EV will be eligible for the same $7,500 federal tax credit as the Leaf, and it will achieve a higher mpg-equivalent score from the EPA than the Volt. Total range is pending, but early indications are the Focus EV will go about as far as the Leaf. Ford's modular 240-volt charging station can be removed from your home if you move, and the automaker reckons it will save Focus EV buyers $500 to $700 compared with the 240-volt stations offered by Nissan and GM.
In short: Ford's gauntlet has landed.
The Focus EV looks like a more aerodynamic version of the Focus, with 17-inch Michelin Energy Saver tires and a large trapezoidal grille that appears fashioned by Aston Martin. A plug point sits above the driver's side front fender.
Inside, twin LCD screens flank the speedometer, with battery charge 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 pictorial diagram to show the range situation at a glance. Rather than the Fusion Hybrid's defoliating shrub, the Focus EV has bluish butterflies that populate or disappear depending how much battery range you have versus your intended trip.
Ford was mum on drivetrain details except to say the Focus EV's lithium-ion battery pack is air-cooled. Senior editor Joe Wiesenfelder raised concerns about air-cooled battery packs in his review of the Leaf; the Volt's battery back is liquid-cooled. Naturally, we won't know how well air-cooled packs fare until the Leaf and Focus EV are well into production.
We also don't know the full range of the Focus EV. Sherif Marakby, Ford's electrification programs and engineering director, said the car is beyond 100 miles in the EPA's old LA-4 cycle — the same one Nissan referenced in its 100-mile claim for the Leaf's range. The EPA's newer five-cycle tests brought the Leaf's window-sticker rating down to 73 miles, so it's anybody's guess what the Focus EV's rating will be. The LA-4 results suggest that actual range should be competitive with the Leaf, however.
Smart charging, which allows you to pick off-peak hours to charge your car, will operate through the Focus EV's Sync system. A smartphone app will allow owners to set charging times, much like the Leaf offers. Ford plans to give the app to owners free for five years.
The script unfolding for electric cars seems to mirror those of hybrids of the past decade. We wonder if the results will be the same.