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First look: Ford unveils all-new Focus Electric

Electric future: The Focus Electric will be Ford's first all-electric passenger car.

Ford to offer super-quick home recharging with Focus EV as production draws near

Ford logo10 Jan 2011

By TERRY MARTIN

FORD has taken its biggest step yet in the world of fuel-free motoring, unveiling the production version of its electrified Ford Focus at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last Friday ahead of its motor show debut in Detroit this week and its market launch late this year.

Based on the new-generation Focus that will arrive in Australia in conventional form during the fourth quarter, and a one-time prospect to become the first EV built in Australia before Ford abandoned its planned Focus production program here, the Focus Electric is Ford’s first-ever all-electric passenger car and will be one of five new electrified vehicles available for sale in North America and Europe by 2013.

The others, as GoAuto has reported previously, are a fully electric Transit van (now in limited production) and a smaller commercial van, a hybrid and plug-hybrid version of the C-Max and another still-to-be-specified new-generation hybrid vehicle.

27 center image From top: Ford Focus Electric street charging, Ford home charger, Ford Focus Electric interior, Ford Focus Electric drivetrain.

Ford is confident the flagship Focus Electric, production of which will ramp up in 2012, is well placed to steal thunder – and sales – from other EVs, including the ready-for-market Nissan Leaf, citing marketing and model specification advantages with the mainstream Focus nameplate and a timeframe of “three to four hours” for full recharging of its LG Chem-developed 28kWh lithium-ion battery pack via an optional 240-volt home charging station.

Ford claims that is half the charge time required with the pioneering Leaf.

Ford Motor Co’s director of electrification programs and engineering, Sharif Marakby, said the short charging time was the Focus Electric’s biggest advantage over other EVs.

“We think that is a big advantage for customers as we have range limitation with electric vehicles to be able to charge it quick and go,” he said. “We’re going to have that advantage over other EVs.”

The company is also quick to point out that the Focus EV – which has been in testing with the current-generation model for the past two years – is a more economical alternative to General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt, which relies on a small (1.4-litre) petrol internal combustion engine to extend its driving range beyond the 60km available solely on electric power to around 500km.

Unlike Holden, which will introduce the Volt in 2012, Ford Australia is yet to commit to a launch date for the Focus Electric in this country.

Crucially, Ford is also still to specify the maximum driving range of the Focus Electric, saying only that there is enough to cover “the majority of daily driving habits of Americans”. GoAuto understands that it is working on a range of 100 miles (160km).

In an effort to reassure potential customers that this will be sufficient, and to reduce driver anxiety levels, the company has vowed to offer real-time feedback about their driving style, the expected range based on current battery charge, distance to the nearest recharging station, and other information.

A smartphone app will enable owners to monitor and control their vehicle (with recharging, state of charge, current range, and the like) via remote control, while a “coaching screen” included in the satellite-navigation system will provide advice on how a driver can improve his/her range, such as turning off the air-conditioning.

Ford claims further that the Focus Electric will offer “real driving enjoyment” with the use of an all-electric powertrain and single-speed transmission, providing “immediate responsiveness and smooth acceleration” – and a top speed of 136km/h.

Detail technical specifications are still to be provided, but the steering, handling and braking feel are said to be akin to the fuel-powered Focus models upon which the EV is based.

“More than any other electric vehicle on the market, Focus Electric loses none of the dynamics and quality of driving a traditional car,” Mr Marakby said.

“It shares many of the same premium components and features as its gasoline-powered counterpart, while delivering distinct efficiencies and a uniquely exciting driving experience.”

Standard features will include six airbags, ESC, hands-free phone connectivity, a nine-speaker stereo, push button start, 15-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels and – with none of the limitations of some hybrid cars – a 60/40 split-fold rear bench seat.

Unique equipment onboard includes eco-friendly trim materials, including bio-foam seat cushions and recycled fabrics.

The Focus Electric will be built in North America alongside the conventional-engine variants at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. A decision on where the vehicle will be built for European supply is “currently being finalised”.

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