Detroit 2011: Ford Focus Electric Finally Plugs In

The long-awaited electrified Focus may have been unwrapped last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but the car’s official auto show debut occurred Monday morning at the 2011 North American Auto Show.

That’s a fitting venue, since nearly two years ago, Ford used the same show to trot out its first Focus electric prototype, and laid down its game plan for rolling out production-ready electric vehicles in the years to come. Back then, the battery electric Focus mule shown to the world was simply a proof of concept vehicle; the slick car shown this week, however, is virtually ready to reach consumers.

As has long been reported, the Focus Electric is based off the new 2012 Focus, which is built atop Ford’s new global C-segment architecture. For the most part, the Electric model closely resembles its gasoline-powered siblings, apart from the bespoke badging, wheels, charging port, and grille design.

Pop the hood, however, and things are markedly different. The front wheels are driven by a 100-kilowatt (123 horsepower) AC motor located underhood, which is channeled through a single-speed transmission. Power, however, comes from a 23-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack -- designed in-house by Ford engineers -- located behind the rear seats. Early estimates suggest this powertrain has a top speed of 84 mph, and a range of roughly 100 miles.

Ford claims the Focus EV offers all the capability of its EV competition, but looks good doing that. We’d have to agree -- although the new Focus isn’t an unattractive car, the Electric’s unique grille design helps simplify the front fascia. Materials within the cabin are first rate, but driver and passengers alike may be more interested in the improved infotainment system. An evolution of MyFord Touch, the multipurpose system not only provides navigation and audio controls, but helps coach the driver for energy efficient driving, optimized regenerative braking, and planning a route within the car’s battery range. A new smartphone application can interface with this system , allowing owners to keep tabs on their EV and, in partnership with a new Microsoft system, schedule charging for off-peak periods.

This may seem fairly ready for production, but don’t expect to see Focus Electrics rolling up to dealer lots quite yet. Production, which will occur on the same Wayne, Michigan, assembly line as regular Focus models, should start later in 2011. Pricing has yet to be announced, but officials suggest the car will be competitively priced with rivals like the Nissan Leaf, suggesting the MSRP could be in the $30,000-$40,000 range. Installation of a 240-volt charger -- which can recharge a dead battery in 3-4 hours -- runs an extra $1400, and is handled by Best Buy’s Geek Squad IT wing.

Martin
"battery pack... located behind the rear seats" - really? Does that mean the rear bench does not fold down? If so, I'll quit waiting for a domestic EV and buy a Leaf. Hatchbacks earn a good part of their utility by allowing loading of large or bulky cargo. I often stop by the home improvement store on my way home from work to pick up 2x4s etc, which requires a folding bench. I did not go for the Civic hybrid for that reason. (Where are the electric wagons?) I suppose this would be one of the disadvantages of going with an existing body - the proper place for the battery pack is below the floor, which is impossible to achieve without a dedicated design.

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