Strengths and weaknesses:
- like the normal car
- rear-seat room
- not for every use
Headline: Ford amps up city driving with Focus Electric
"The guts between Focus and Focus Electric are completely different."
Ford believes drivers should have the choice of the car that suits their needs best, that’s why it is offering several different versions of its more popular models, including the new Ford Focus.
Before we key in on Focus, let’s use the upcoming Fusion mid-sized sedan as the prime example – you can get the traditional front-wheel drive family sedan (which is remarkably handsome in its upcoming generation), you can get it as a Hybrid and you can also get it as an Energi (plug-in hybrid) model.
The idea is to offer potential buyers the traditional gasoline model and a hybrid for better economy without too much sacrifice required from the driver/owner, and a plug-in for people who want even better mileage (especially in city traffic) with a little bit of effort – you have to plug it in, when you’re planning on using it for a while. The only thing missing from the Fusion line-up is a dedicated electric vehicle. Focus, however, gets one of those.
Focus comes as a normal hatchback and sedan, and a dedicated Electric hatchback. The hybrid versions are a bit more “grey area,” with the C-Max (which is based off Focus and could be regarded as a Focus wagon – higher, but pretty much identical in length, wheelbase and width) getting the hybrid and Energi models. In effect, the two models together give perhaps the most complete line-up outside of maybe the Prius family of hybrids. Perhaps not by accident, that’s the model in Focus’ cross-hairs.
Now the Focus Electric is indistinguishable from the real Focus, with the only difference being the round plug flap on the front driver’s side fender instead of the rear passenger’s side fuel-filler flap (nicely integrated with the right rear taillight).
The guts between Focus and Focus Electric are completely different, but their integration is remarkably similar. The Electric hatchback is marginally larger overall and the cabin dimensions will go unnoticed by many, with the sole exception being a noticeable difference in leg room, especially in the rear where the regular Focus has a full ten inches on the Focus Electric (although up front, the Focus Electric has nearly two inches on the hatchback Focus), due to the location of the lithium-ion battery pack (which also impacts cargo area by 263 litres or 9.3 cubic feet – that’s a lot!)
The Focus Electric battery charges in 20 hours using a standard outlet or in four hours with a 240V hook-up. The latter time is about half that of the Nissan Leaf (its prime competitor), which has slightly more storage capacity (24 kWh versus the Focus’ 23). The main difference in the halved charge time lies in Focus’ using a larger on-board charger (7 kW, versus the Leaf’s 3.3).
Because the size of the batteries are about the same, the Focus Electric range should be about the same as Leaf – about 160 km/h, though that depends on load and weather. The subject of the latter is addressed through heating and cooling of the battery, to keep it at optimum operating temperature.
An online and mobile app allow the Focus Electric owner to switch on the heating and cooling while the car is plugged in, taking advantage of the electrical feed rather than the electricity stored in the battery pack (which can then be used for driving).
As for driving, Ford claims the Focus Electric drives just like the regular hatchback, and it’s tough to argue. It certainly accelerates as quickly (maybe even more quickly), thanks to 184 lb.-ft. of torque available almost immediately from shove-off (as opposed to the gasoline engine’s 146 at 4,450 rpm), despite having to move an extra 352 kg (776 lbs.).
The extra weight also gives it a nailed down feeling during more aggressive driving manoeuvres, but that isn’t really what you want the Focus Electric to do. Rather, you want it to get you around the city efficiently and smoothly.
And it does that quite well.