Sunday, 3 June 2012

Ford Focus Electric Initial Impressions

Ford Focus Electric
Ford has embarked upon a national tour with its Focus Electric in both the U.S. and Canada, stopping at major cities to allow members of the public to have a look.
Recently, we were invited to sample the car and here’s our first impression. Everything about the Focus Electric smacks of being low key, from its exterior colors, to its marketing strategy that is going after the three most pro EV vehicle markets initially, California, New Jersey and New York, and the fact that save for the grille and some exterior badging, it doesn’t look much different from its gasoline counterpart.
Inside it’s a similar story, conventional looking dash, shifter and console. The instrument cluster features a central mounted speedometer, though somewhat similar to the Fusion Hybrid with its ‘”leaves” has a butterfly graphic display to the right of it. This is designed to encourage smooth progressive driving, the more butterflies appear; the more efficient you’re being behind the wheel.
And in terms of actual driving, the Focus Electric behaves very much like a regular compact. Acceleration is rather brisk off the line, despite the car’s approximate 3,600-pound curb weight. It’s also responsive through the corners, demonstrating dynamic prowess superior to some other pure EVs and even hybrids we’ve sampled.
Although we weren’t given the chance to get it up to cruising speeds, the Focus pulls steady as velocity increases, so we have no problem in believing it will easily reach its advertised top speed of 84 mph.
One thing that is a bit of a surprise is braking. Most pure EVs feel like they’re dragging a tree behind once the braking system goes into regenerative mode. In this case, it’s almost as if Ford has deliberately chosen to make stopping “feel” as close as possible to a regular car. The thing is, in our view, braking feels more like that of a 1970s Detroit land yacht, being feather light and perhaps a bit alarming, at least at first.
In terms of practicality, while the lithium-ion battery takes up a bit of trunk space, due to its location under the seat, cargo volume isn’t that compromised, so as an urban runabout, the Focus Electric might make better sense than some other EVs.
Ford says, that thanks to an onboard charging system that’s configured for 6.6 kilowatts – double that of the Nissan Leaf’s 3.3-kw charger – the Focus Electric can be re-juiced in four hours using a 240-volt outlet. What’s more, Ford is offering a $1,499 home charging station to help make it more appealing.
Still, at a price of $39,995, the Focus Electric is by no means inexpensive and with an EPA projected range of 76 miles, it’s still very much a car for early adopters, despite being in many respects far more conventional than either the Leaf or Mitsubishi i.
Nonetheless, if new-generation battery packs are able to significantly extend the range of cars like this, then the Focus Electric likely stands a better chance of convincing motorists about the benefits of EV technology, due to its inherently more mainstream personality.

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