The Focus Electric is Ford's first all-electric car and the most efficient five-seater on sale in the United States. Unlike many electric cars either for sale or on the way, Ford didn't opt for funky and obvious eco styling, but rather took the standard Focus hatchback and even kicked up the style factor a notch or two.
The Focus Electric uses LG Chem-developed batteries that feature an active liquid system to heat or chill a coolant to keep the battery pack at its optimal temperature. The 23 KWh lithium-ion batteries help propel a 123 horsepower, 181 lb-ft. of torque electric motor through a single-speed transmission. This front-wheel-drive hatchback also features other energy-saving technologies, like electric power steering and regenerative four-wheel disc brakes.
The EPA rates the Focus Electric's mileage at 110 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) in the city, 99 MPGe in the city and 105 MPGe combined, making it the most efficient five passenger car in the U.S.
Weighing in at 3,691 lbs., the Focus Electric is slightly heavier than its gas-powered counterpart - but Ford promises that the sporting driving dynamics of the standard Focus are retained.
The Focus Electric's range is officially rated at 76 miles, slightly better than that of the Nissan Leaf. After the batteries are depleted, the EV can be charged with either a 120 or 240V outlet. To take advantage of the 240V capability, Ford has created a fast charger that it says will be able to fully recharge the car in under four hours. With a standard 120V wall outlet, however, Ford estimates charge time at a rather lengthy 18-20 hours.
Ford's Focus on advanced charging
Ford's Focus Electric makes use of the most advanced (and costly) batteries currently used in hybrid and electric vehicles - lithium-ion. Ford opted for a liquid-cooled system that it says helps optimize battery life and driving range compared to other electric vehicles which do not address the sapping effects of temperature swings.
Another thing that makes the Focus Electric stand out as an EV is its fast charge capability - allowing for a full charge in as little as four hours with a 240-volt charging station. Ford also partnered with Best Buy to offer a special charging station that can be bought from and installed by the retailer.
Taking it one step further, Ford and Microsoft also worked to develop a value charging system that automatically charges the car during off-peak hours, thus guaranteeing the cheapest possible rates for the electricity used to charge the car. This helps reduce strain on the grid and save Focus Electric owners money.
Before factoring in state and federal incentives, the Focus Electric starts from $39,995. Ford decided to release the car with a staggered roll-out, with consumers in California, New York and New Jersey receiving the car in early 2012 while those in Arizona, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington will have to wait until mid-2012.
From the outside, few changes were made over the automaker's standard Ford Focus five-door hatchback. A simpler, smoother front fascia with a wide stylistic grille design, special wheels, badging and a charging port located on the front left fender are all that sets the Focus Electric apart from its gasoline and diesel (Europe) counterparts.
Inside, things are mostly sourced from the Titanium trim level of the standard Focus, aside from the front instrument cluster. Borrowing its basic style from the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Ford Edge, the three-panel instrument cluster displays a myriad of driver information.
Ford's MyFord Touch system is capable of displaying battery state of charge, estimated range and the location of a charging point. Instead of the "growing vine" in the Fusion Hybrid that represents eco-minded driving, the Focus Electric features blue butterflies to show a larger range.
The built-in navigation system can help drivers pick the most efficient route to their intended destination in order to save charge - rather than simply providing routes based on distance or time traveled.
The Focus Electric's main rival is the Nissan Leaf, which offers similar range capabilities in a uniquely styled package. The diminutive Mitsubishi i is also an option for those who only need subcompact space and a range of 62 miles, while the Chevrolet Volt provides an environmentally-friendly electric powertrain in addition to a range-extending gasoline motor.