This is the 2012 Ford Focus Electric, a variant of Ford’s already stellar Ford Focus. It’s got all the same bells and whistles as the normal Focus sans one very important detail; a gasoline powered engine. The Focus Electric is Ford’s answer to the Nissan Leaf as it’s a full-on electric car. The Focus and Leaf are about the same size and have a similar range, but the Focus has the ability to recharge in about half the time of the 2012 Nissan Leaf. I’ve been playing around with this car for about a week, and I can tell you that at this writing, I actually like it quite a bit.
The Focus in any trim level has always been a fun-loving little car. It’s well styled, fun to drive and from day one has possessed decent fuel economy. This new version uses no fuel at all, but when I first got it I wondered if everything I loved about the original Focus would be ditched in favor of a gigantic battery pack.
Obviously with any electric car the first question is range, or more importantly, how many miles will it get on a single charge. Ford advertises about a 72 mile range at full charge, and I’d like to report that’s fairly accurate. My test loop runs about 60 miles and incorporates everything from highway driving and back country canyon roads, to a nice stint through the city of San Francisco. Now here is the thing. I drove this car like I would any other automobile which meant 75-80 mph on the interstate and normal speeds around town. I ran the heat, navigation and stereo to see if that affected my initial charge level and thankfully, it really didn’t.
The car relies on regenerative braking, or the means by which electricity is put back into the batteries when the brakes are applied. Now, if you’re rolling on the interstate right from the get go, well then your battery is going to be depleted quicker than it would be it if you were rolling around town due to you not using the brakes. However in daily driving conditions most of us partake in combined driving, which is really what the Focus EV is best at.
Ford claims you can recharge the Focus in about 4-hours when using their 240-volt home system. However if you decided to use a standard 120V outlet you’re looking at up to a whopping 20-hours, which is just ridiculous in my opinion.
From a driving standpoint the Focus EV drives better than your standard econo-box because of its high weight (3,691 lbs.) and low battery placement. Having a low center of gravity means the car feels surefooted going through the turns and on the highway. However more weight equals less range, so there-in lies the rub of all electric vehicles as batteries are VERY heavy.
Acceleration is adequate and you’ll hit 60 mph in around 9.5 seconds or about the same as a Chevy Volt. Put the accelerator down and it’s not so much acceleration you feel in as much as a sense of whirring thrust. Power is rated at 143-horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque from the 107kW electric motor and that feels about right. The Focus Electric has a one speed transmission so the power just builds and builds until you hit a top speed of around 85 mph. Torque is also instantaneous which means passing other cars is fun at slower speeds.
Inside the Focus you’ll find a nice cabin with some great standard features like heated seats, navigation, satellite radio, dual climate control and back-up camera. In fact the only true option on the Focus EV seems to be leather seats. Fit and finish is nice and the interior of the Focus is a pleasant place to be.
As with most electric vehicles, the dash is filled with electronic readouts that try and coach us in regards to getting the most out of your batteries. Put too much pressure on the go-pedal and watch the Eco-gauge yell at you. Push down only slightly and you’ll be rewarded with a happy dash panel. Regardless though there are still two issues (even though I like this car) with the Focus EV. First is the price. We’re talking $39,200 before a $7,800 rebate, which some people won’t qualify for. Then there is the 72 mile range. Here in California people live in their cars. That means traffic jams, interstates and long commutes. Plus if your place of business doesn’t offer a convenient recharge station, you’re basically S.O.L. if your batteries go flat.
What that all means is that this is a city car or one for those individuals who do the same under 70 mile drive daily. You can’t take it on road trips or even trips farther than 35 miles at a clip as you may not make it back. This is a GOOD car, it really is, but until it gets an honest 150-200 mile range at minimum per charge, you may want to stick with the regular, and still fantastic gas powered Focus.