First drive: 2012 Ford Focus electric
I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not — or even much of a surprise — but much of Ford’s focus (pardon the bad pun) on its new electric vehicle is all about range. I suspect that, like most things, all the customizable apps and navigational systems will prove a boon to some and anathema to others. At the very least, all those electronic widgets encourage a commitment to changing one’s driving habits common only to the dedicated enviro-weenie.
For instance, there’s an app (these days, isn’t there always?) for your iPhone, BlackBerry or Android that lets you not only monitor your Focus’s battery level from anywhere (useful from an airport in, say, Spain, to check if you have enough juice to get home when landing back in Canada) but also schedule charging to minimize electricity costs.
The same app will find local charging stations (presuming there are any) and even keep a running tab on your CO2 emissions and money saved by motoring so virtuously on electricity.
You can even — and this is by far the coolest feature — pre-heat (or cool, if it’s summer) the Focus Electric’s cabin before you drive away. The MyFord app does this, because the Electric’s range is maximized if the interior has been acclimatized while plugged in rather than wasting precious battery charge to do it. Personally, I think it’s just cool to be able to climb into a nice, toasty-warm cabin for the morning commute.
There’s even a braking “coach” on board. A display in the instrument cluster tells you when you’re maximizing regenerative braking. (As with all aspects of EV and hybrid optimization, easy does it. Longer, gentler braking periods are more effective at recharging the battery than short, abrupt stops.) Even the Focus EV’s navigational system gets in on this range-extending customization. With an EcoRoute function, you can choose an alternative path to your desired destination that wastes fewer electrons, extending the car’s range a smidgen.
More prophetic, though, is the “Can I get there?” function. As useful as it may be, however, it may also be a constant reminder of the EV’s shortcomings. And, naturally, the Focus EV has to have a little display telling the driver how virtuously he or she is driving. In Ford’s case, it’s a series of blue butterflies — the more butterflies you have, the more of a “butterfly effect — in which a small change can have an enormous impact.” Or so it says in Ford’s press material.
Of course, the Focus EV is more than just computerized gizmos. Underneath its more aggressive skin (the deep, shark-like front grille makes it look très sporty), there’s a 23-kilowatt hour lithium ion battery. Like the Chevrolet Volt — and unlike the Nissan Leaf — Ford uses a radiator-like system to heat or cool the battery to maintain a constant temperature, the company’s engineers finding the more consistent climate conducive to long battery life.
Those 23 kWh are said to power the 107-kW (143-horsepower) electric motor for about 150 kilometres, about the median for current EV technology. Ford says the Focus can attain a 135-km-an-hour top speed, although exercising that performance frequently will dramatically drop its projected 160-km maximum range. Ford also says that the Focus’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency miles-per-gallon-e rating exceeds 100 miles per U.S. gallon (2.35 litres per 100 km), which is best in class.
One aspect of the Focus EV that Ford is justifiably proud of is that the car’s 23-kWh lithium ion battery can be recharged in three to four hours on a 240-volt system compared with the six to eight hours the Nissan Leaf requires at the same voltage. Credit the larger onboard 6.6-kW charger compared with the Nissan’s 3.3-kW item.
The 240-volt chargers for the Focus will cost about $1,500 to $2,000 (though British Columbia and Quebec are offering cost-offsetting subsidies for the chargers as they are on the EVs themselves). But the Focus can be recharged using a common 110-volt household outlet, though it will take much longer.
As much as Ford will be trumpeting the miracle that is the Focus EV, the true strength of Ford’s new electrified lineup is the depth of its choices. Ford calls it its Power of Choice program.
For instance, the soon to be introduced C-MAX will be available only in hybrid and plug-in hybrid guises, although both can be built on the same production line as the Focus EV, allowing Ford to easily adjust production volumes according to demand.
Ford also promises the Energi plug-in version of the C-Max will offer better overall fuel economy than Toyota’s new plug-in Prius and, with an overall 800-km range, it can travel farther on a tank of gas than Chevrolet’s Volt, according to the automaker.
Ford adds that the C-MAX Energi has a pure EV mode that allows it to travel up to 32 km on electric power alone. It, too, has a customizable app that monitors the lithium ion battery’s charge status and range. As for the basic C-MAX Hybrid, it also uses a new lithium ion battery and an electric motor in conjunction with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine (the same as in the Energi’s).
Ford of Canada is not releasing pricing on the new C-MAX lineup yet, but the automaker says the Focus EV will retail for $41,199. That’s a few thousand dollars more than Nissan’s base Leaf, but, according to Steve Ross, Ford’s product marketing manager, sustainability and electrification, it’s much better equipped. Indeed, Ross says the Focus EV is so well equipped in standard trim that there are only three options available — leather seats, metallic paint and a cargo management system.
Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that the Volt extended-range electric vehicle has a retail price of $41,545 and has none of the range limitations of a pure electric vehicle.