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Driving the new electric Ford Focus spurs competition among green drivers

Consumer Reports News: April 24, 2012 10:08 AM


Not many consumers have even seen Ford's new electric Focus hatchback on the road. Fortunately, we had a chance to drive a couple Focus EVs and learn why they're so rare.

For starters, Ford isn't planning to sell very many Focus BEVs (for "battery electric vehicles"). With a price about $2,500 higher than the Nissan Leaf, Ford is only planning on selling about 2,000 a year, once the car is up to full production. And that's assuming nationwide sales. Right now, the $39,200 car is available only in California, New Jersey, and New York. By comparison, Nissan sold 7,800 Leafs last year, missing its sales target by more than 20 percent.

Our staffers have had two opportunities recently to drive the Focus EV—at our Auto Test Center in Connecticut and again in New York City. Most of our drivers enjoyed the near-silent thrust of the electric drivetrain combined with the refined chassis of the basic Focus.

To help drivers get the most out of this EV battery, Ford has gone over the top with some of the features integrated into the MyFord Touch instrument-panel screens. With a standard navigation system, once you program a route, the Focus will calculate your trip buffer, advising whether you have enough energy to make a side trip to the grocery store, for example. The new driver aids include a regenerative braking gauge that will show how much energy you've recaptured after every stop, minus the amount lost to the regular hydraulic brakes. It's not uncommon to see 100 percent on this gauge. It is worth noting that the pedal feels surprisingly linear for an electric car. (Read our Focus SE and Focus SEL road tests.)

Building on the apparent popularity of the growing leaf graphic on the original Fusion hybrid, the electric Focus collects white butterflies on its right-hand screen. Accelerate too hard too many times, and they'll start flying away. Otherwise they flap once in a while to let you know they're still happy there. The graphic change with this new model makes sense, as it would be odd for the Focus to reward the driver with leaves, in lieu of Nissan's competitor.

2012-Ford-Focus-EV-plug.jpgAll this technology will also be available on Android and Apple iOS devices through the MyFord Mobile application. Not only can Focus EV drivers preheat or cool the car and set charge times remotely, but by using Ford's MyKey system, different drivers in the family can compete for who drives the most efficiently. There's also a social game where you can compete with other Focus EV drivers for top green honors.

The only option on the Focus EV is leather seats, which add $995 to the bottom line.

In the end, the Focus is nicer to drive than the Leaf, and it offers a little more electronic connectivity. More importantly, it can charge in half the time (on a dedicated 240-volt, Level 2 electric-car charger). And in EPA tests, the Focus delivered a slightly longer range: 76 miles, vs. 73. But availability is very limited for now. Whether it's worth the extra $2,500, we'll have to wait to determine until after we've bought one to test. Stay tuned!

For more about electric cars, visit our alternative fuels special section.

Eric Evarts

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