Ford Focus Electric preview It& s a solid car that& s …

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Cadillac Electric Cars

2013 Ford Focus Electric

June 5, 2012

The Ford Focus Electric will commence deliveries in the SF Bay Area within a week, and Ford brought the Focus Electric to a local electric car enthusiasts meeting to talk and give test rides.

Ford’s careful, measured, and non-splashy approach to launching the Ford Focus Electric is a sharp contrast to other manufacturers like Nissan and GM. No ceremony’s marking the first customer deliveries of the Focus Electric, no blaring press releases, just a program of certifying dealers as ready to handle electric cars. and shipping cars to those dealers. Over the weekend Ford brought a pair of Focus Electric’s to the Golden Gate Electric Vehicle Association meeting (GGEVA) in San Francisco to talk about the car, Ford’s electrification strategy, and to give us a chance to drive it around the block.

The Ford Focus Electric is simply an electric version of the regular Focus. Ford manufactures the car on the same assembly line, and when the company has an order for a Focus Electric the line workers simply install an electric drive train rather than gasoline. The implementation of this is no doubt complex, but that’s one of Ford’s core strategies, to give Ford the manufacturing flexibility to offer multiple drive trains on the same vehicle platform.

This means that the Focus Electric is visually indistinguishable from the gasoline driven Focus. That is, except for the Electric badge on the tail end, the lack of tailpipe and noise.

The test drive was simply a short drive around downtown San Francisco city streets, so we were unable to take it up any of that city’s famous hills, or on the highway. That said, the car felt extremely stable, solid, had great acceleration, and in every way is what we’d expect from a major manufacturer.

The passenger cabin is just what one would expect from a major automaker, a comfortable space easily accommodating 5 people. The Focus Electric includes several standard features that are extra features in the regular focus, including the Sync with MyFordTouch system that is a several thousand dollar option. A fully spec’d out gasoline Focus could cost as much as $25k, delivering similar features to the Focus Electric.

The Electric runs around $32k after Federal tax rebate and qualifies for local incentives that can bring the price even lower.

The car is turned on via a button on the dashboard. The dashboard is a color LCD screen, and upon turning the car on a little notification box appears with an OK button that makes one want to reach out and touch that button to acknowledge the message. But the dashboard screen is not touch sensitive, and instead there is an OK button on the steering wheel.

We’re in a new era of automobile design, and should get accustomed to new interaction patterns with our cars.

To get going, simply shift the transmission into drive (or reverse to back up). Once in drive the car starts moving even if your foot isn’t on the accelerator, this is to simulate the creep mode of gasoline cars. The driving experience is amazingly quiet, though production versions of the Focus Electric will have a noise maker to alert pedestrians.

Acceleration is very brisk, though the test drive course didn’t allow us to fully test speed and acceleration. Braking behaves in an unexpected way, however. The car of course includes regenerative braking, however this only kicks in when pushing the brake pedal. Most electric cars turn on a mild level of regenerative braking as soon as you lift your foot off the accelerator, in order to simulate engine braking. The dashboard displays includes an indicator showing when regenerative braking is active, which only activates when the brake pedal is pushed.

Chevrolet Electric Cars

Lifting your foot off the accelerator does result in some slowing, which may be simply normal coasting action.

One side effect of building the Focus Electric on the same assembly line, is that the car is not explicitly designed as an electric. Where most electric cars put the battery pack underneath the passenger cabin, the Focus Electric 23 kilowatt-hour battery pack is located in the trunk area, and takes up some of the trunk space. Where the 5-door hatchback Focus has a 23.8 cubic foot cargo area, the Focus Electric has 14.5 cubic feet.

The cargo area also contains a dedicated place to store the 120 volt line charger, in a nicely designed styrofoam thing with precisely cut slots. While it was nicely designed, this dedicated location is at the bottom of the rear cargo area, one that could easily become buried by all the, uh, stuff that seems to collect in a cargo area like this.

Speaking of the 120 volt charging unit, it doesn’t appear meant to be used on a routine basis. The charging cord is a thin 16 gauge cable, with a small plug. GM’s 120 volt charger also had a 16 gauge cable with small plug, and GM recently replaced all the chargers with ones sporting a beefier cable. after Volt owners reported problems with the charging cord heating up.

We predict Ford will launch a similar replacement campaign in a few months.

The charging port is a nice touch. To open the cover one pushes on a little dimple, and the cover pops out of the way. The port includes a blue-lit ring around the outside that indicates the charge level as the battery recharges.

A very nice touch, and improvement over the external state of charge indicator on other electric cars.

Ford representatives said that Focus Electrics would begin rolling into the SF Bay Area in a week or two. First deliveries are slated for California and New York, with other selected states around the country later in the year.

Chrysler Electric Cars

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