The Focus Electric is the first all-electric vehicle in Ford's 110-year history. It entails a number of compromises - including decreased cargo space, a high price and an abbreviated 76-mile range - compared to the standard Focus hatchback on which it's based, but the Focus Electric's ease of use and conventional styling should be major draws for those who want an EV that feels like a normal car.
From the outside, it takes a sharp eye to distinguish the electrified Focus from its gas-powered kin. The major tell is a reshaped front fascia with a wide, Aston Martin-like grille. Closer inspection will also reveal special wheels, badging and a charging port located on the front left fender that takes the place of the fuel filler door.
The big differences, of course, are in the powertrain departartment. In place of the normal Focus' 2.0-liter four-cylinder is a 123 horsepower, 181 lb-ft. of torque electric motor that sends power to the front wheels through a single-speed transmission. Electricity is sourced from an LG Chem-developed 23-KWh lithium ion batter pack that features an active liquid heating/cooling system to keep it at an optimal temperature and thus avoid the range-sapping effects of extreme climates.
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 one of the most efficient five-passenger vehicles in the U.S.
Total driving range is estimated at 76 miles, slightly better than that of the Nissan Leaf. When the time comes to recharge, the battery pack can be replenished in four hours with a 240-volt charging station. With a standard 120V wall outlet, however, Ford estimates charge time at a rather lengthy 18-20 hours.
Ford partnered with Best Buy to offer a special charging station that can be bought from and installed by the retailer. Taking things 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.
Weighing in at 3,691 lbs., the Focus Electric is considerably heavier than its fossil fuel-sipping counterparts. The extra mass takes a toll on agility, although handling remains safe and predictable.
The Inside Story
The Focus Electric's cabin is mostly sourced from the range-topping 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 reconfigurable three-panel instrument cluster displays a wide range of vehicle information.
The standard MyFord Touch infotainment 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. There's also a brake coach that lets drivers know when they're making the best use of the car's regenerative brakes.
MyFord Touch also lets users control everything from navigation to climate control to the sound system with voice commands. MyFord Touch replaces conventional sound system knobs and buttons with a center-mounted eight-inch touchscreen, dual 4.2-inch displays in the instrument cluster and touch-sensitive controls in the center stack. Many consumers report that the system is a "love it or hate it" item, so those interested in the Explorer are advised to try before they buy.
A 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.
Another standard technology feature is SYNC, Ford's Bluetooth-based connectivity system that allows smartphone users to place calls and stream music by using voice commands or steering wheel-mounted buttons. It can also read incoming texts aloud to help the driver keep his or her eyes on the road, and allows the use of Ford-approved apps like The Wall Street Journal news and Pandora radio.
Because its electric powertrain intrudes into the cabin, the Focus Electric has noticeably less cargo space than the standard model. With the rear seats up, there's just 14.5 cubic feet available (compared to 23.8).
Standard and Optional Features
The Focus Electric comes handsomely equipped with a navigation system, nine-speaker Sony AM/FM/CD stereo with AUX and USB inputs, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver's seat, a reverse sensing system, a rearview camera, HID headlights, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, a proximity key with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, SYNC, MyFord Touch, ambient interior lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and 17-inch painted aluminum rims.
All Focus Electrics are fitted with dual front, front side and full-length side curtains in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire pressure monitoring system.
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.