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Electric prototype could be a useable family car - if it went on sale

What is it?

Ford has been working for some time on an electric Focus to trial with residents of north-west London. The Focus BEV (battery electric vehicle) is the first car to emerge from its Ultra-Low Carbon Development Vehicle programme, or ULCDV, as it's catchily known at the Dunton Technical Centre in Essex, where we drove this prototype.

What's it like?

Focus drivers will find much that they recognise in the interior of the BEV. The most obvious changes are the replacement of the rev counter with a red-green economy gauge, which shows the amount of power you're using or reclaiming as you brake, and the lack of a handbrake lever (an electric one is integrated into the auto-style gear selector). Despite appearances, the selector simply determines whether the motor is driving the front wheels and in which direction.

The most visible change is in the boot, which loses roughly half its volume to house three battery packs and the charging system. The remaining four packs are under the boot floor, in place of the fuel tank.

Ford has put much of its efforts into making the BEV as similar to a normal driving experience as possible. Step-off is smooth, and brisk if you floor it, while there's a small amount of creep in 'D', which aids low-speed manoeuvring.

The Mitsubishi iMiEV has a slightly more polished feel to the drivetrain, but the Focus undoubtedly has the edge in terms of ride and handling, which does much to disguise the extra 200kg at the rear of the car.

Shoudl I buy one?

Ford has no plans to put the BEV into production, but given a suitable urban environment and stop-start duty cycle, it's easy to see how this could be a very usable family car.

Ed Keohane

Join the debate

Add a comment…
MrTrilby 11 December 2009

Re: Ford Focus BEV

Widescreen wrote:
hybrids cannot get much better than now...hybrids in smaller Mondeo size and below are dead..unlucky for Toyota and Honda!
How do you work that one out then? The current range of hybrids for sale today use NiMH batteries, and put up with the limitations that places on charge and discharge rates, capacity and life. As LiIon and newer battery technology becomes available, we'll see improvements. Remember that a hybrid will benefit from improvements that come from either IC or battery technology, so either way they improve. You do also realise that the Volt is a hybrid and a similar size to the Prius?
Widescreen wrote:
hybrids are rubbish unless you have a big SUV
Again, how do you work that out? I'm assuming the measure of success with a hybrid is how economical it makes them. On that basis, the big SUV hybrids are rubbish because they are all pitiful in terms of economy compared to the smaller more car like hybrids.

Widescreen 11 December 2009

Re: Ford Focus BEV

Lp; the research shows (as has been commented on in these forums..and I am sure someone can correct me if wrong) but the research was that the average commute was 25 miles; thus the vast majorit of people would easily fit within the range of the Nissan Leaf or the Miti.

Then other cars are coming out such as the Tesla S with a range of 300 miles...

Put it another way, if you commute to work and charge the car up at work; then you can have a commute round trip of 200 to 600 miles? i do not know of anyone that has a "car" commute of more than 30 miles; thus i do not see your point.

If you have longer to go, then you get Chevy Volt type car (when they are launched) or right now an ultra efficiency IC, noting that the ultra eff ICs are pretty much on to hybrid figures now, the next range in a couple of years will match hybrids with no batteries...hybrids cannot get much better than now...hybrids in smaller Mondeo size and below are dead..unlucky for Toyota and Honda!

As for the technology, as has been pointed out, the hybrids are rubbish unless you have a big SUV, the mild hybrid is better for small vehicles and the two true technologies are "range extender" (aka Chevy Volt) and electric cars.

let me ask you a different question, do you honestly think Nissan and Miti etc would have set the range at 100 miles if they knew everyone did 200 miles to work in one direction? answer is no.

as said, hybrid for SUV (or very large cars), mild hybrid (smaller vehicles) and realistically range extender and electric; simple as; hybrid technology in small cars is dead, Honda got it wrong as did Toyota; fact, you can tell me about all the Prius sales you want, but they still got the technology wrong; electric and range extender is the way to go.

BigEd 11 December 2009

Re: Ford Focus BEV

Ed, whilst many are pointing out the range problem with battery power cars like this Ford are you aware that there are other huge drawbacks? like cold weather?

does this Ford milkfloat have lithium ion batteries? we already know that conventional lead-acid batteries suffer in cold temps. but apparently lithium ion packs are next to useless once the temp falls below 0 deg C.

worse than that, unless the boffins at Sanyo, Panasonic and so on have found some way, recharging Li ion batteries in freezing temps. could be life-endangering:

here's an interesting word of caution from the excellent Battery University website: It's hazardous to charge lithium-ion batteries at temperatures below freezing

At temperatures below 32°F – for example, when you leave your cell phone[Ford milkfloat] on the battery charger in your car[garage/outside wall] – the battery's anode picks up a metallic plating. The plating is non-reversible and cumulative, so after several sub-freezing charge cycles, the pack's safety is compromised: A sharp impact or an aggressive charge (typical of many of today's charging circuits) invites the infamous lithium-ion thermal runaway condition. Or, less dramatically, your cell phone battery[milkfloat] may simply stop working

the more one reads about these brave new world machines the more one is amazed by how wonderful everything will be in the future - so long as you don't have to drive too far and it's not too cold.

could you ask the Ford people how their milkfloats would perform on days like today - brass monkey weather?