The availability of mainstream electric vehicles (EV) is a lot closer than you realize. The Tesla Roadster (with its six-figure pricetag) and Mitsubishi i-MiEV are already being sold to the general public*. The Nissan Leaf is scheduled for a December 2010 launch and the Coda Sedan isn’t very far behind. Ford wants to be a player in the EV space and the Focus (along with the Transit Connect) are platforms being developed as pure electric vehicles.
The Ford Focus EV is based on the next-generation Ford Focus, a capable if not head-turning car. By choosing an existing platform, Ford will save the expense associated with developing a unique design. Ever since the second-generation Prius, with its iconic design, became a hit, automakers have adopted the idea that a hybrid car with an innovative high-tech drivetrain needs to scream out for attention. That’s the direction that Nissan is taking with the Nissan Leaf, due out in limited markets in late 2010. The Chevy Volt extended-range EV, the new Honda Insight, and the Lexus HS 250h are also original purpose-built designs.
The Ford Focus EV is something else entirely. It’s a real car that’s fun to drive. The only difference between it and the gasoline-burning Ford Focus is the electric drivetrain.
Get in the Focus and, press the Start button and the first thing you notice is how quiet the car is. It’s eerily quiet — so quiet, in fact, that all you hear is the tires screeching when you push the car hard. The Focus EV is a bit heavy in the back because you’re carrying 300 pounds of batteries. But people who have driven one really are amazed by how nice it is. You forget after a while that there’s no carbon-polluting, fossil-fuel burning engine.
Behind the wheel, the driving experience with the Focus is a lot more exciting than driving a Prius. There is a tremendous amount of torque because electric motors make all their torque the moment you press the accelerator. Move the gear lever into D, push on the accelerator pedal and you’ve got all the power you need. Bottom line: the Focus EV is a quick and nimble little car that’s fun to drive.
I feel directly connected to the car because there is no transmission, so when you put electricity through the motor it goes immediately to the rear wheels. The Focus’ motor is highly efficient with a range of approaching 100 miles from a 23 kilowatt-hour battery pack.
We have to award kudos to the Focus EV for brisk acceleration, top-notch build-quality, handling, and braking much better than your average pre-production car. We were wowed by how it is quiet, smooth and fun to drive.
Get in line now because our prediction is that the Ford Focus EV is going to be more popular than the prom queen. And maybe even more fun.
The Focus EV is not a plug-in series hybrid, sometimes referred to as “extended-range electric vehicle,” which carries a small engine on board to recharge the batteries on the fly. Instead, you’ll need to plan your travels to get back to a plug before you use up the 100 miles worth of energy. Fully recharging could take from 6 to 12 hours, depending if you are using a 110-volt or 220-volt hookup. Ford is planning to introduce its own plug-in hybrid in 2012.
* Mitsubishi i-MiEV has been on sale in Japan since July 2009.