Ford’s new Focus Electric is the flagship of its five-strong fleet of alternatively fuelled cars and potentially the most significant all-electric rival to the Nissan Leaf yet.
Whereas Nissan and sister firm Renault have developed dedicated platforms for electric vehicles (EVs), Ford has adopted Volkswagen’s approach with its electric Golf and based the Focus Electric on the standard car’s platform.
As well as lower development costs, there are marketing benefits because buyers should be more at ease with the concept of an EV when buying into a name they know, such as Focus or Golf.
The Focus Electric was launched last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas ahead of a motor show debut in Detroit today.
The car’s electric motor is powered by a 28kWh lithium ion battery, giving a top speed of 84mph. A standard full recharge from a 240V outlet will take three to four hours — half the time of the Nissan Leaf — and Ford is targeting a range of 100 miles.
The company says the EV’s steering, handling and braking feel almost identical to those of the standard Focus, with the main changes being improved aerodynamics and a much quieter cabin due to the electric powertrain.
The Focus Electric includes an advanced MyFord Touch infotainment system, featuring coaching on achieving a more eco-friendly driving style, detailed information on battery life and a smart satellite navigation system that tells you how far your current charge will get you.
A MyFord Mobile app will allow the owner to control certain functions remotely, such as the heating. It will also provide charging data and receive alerts when the car needs charging or has finished charging.
Ford has also teamed up with Microsoft to offer a value charging system that fuels the car when electricity is at its cheapest. This, in turn, minimises the strain on the national grid. Ford intends to work with utility companies to better understand the demands charging EVs has on the grid.
American-spec Focus Electrics will be built in Michigan, with a final decision to be taken on a plant for Europe. The car will be launched in the US later this year, with European sales expected to follow in 2012. Trials of the previous-generation Focus Electric are taking place in Hillingdon, north London, and these will influence how Ford markets the car in Europe.