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NEW YORK – Ford's new Focus compact car isn't even on sale yet, but the automaker has revealed plans to add an electric version by the end of 2011. The Focus Electric is a pure, zero-emissions battery-powered car similar in concept to the recently launched Nissan Leaf.
Unlike the uniquely designed Leaf, the Focus Electric is nearly identical to the conventional version of the car, save for a slightly different front fascia and a charging input located behind the driver's side front fender, along with the requisite "Electric" logos. Five passengers will fit in an interior that is also largely unchanged, although part of the battery system encroaches on cargo space in the form of a large box behind the seats measuring about one foot high by one foot deep.
Ford says that the 23 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack developed with LG Chem can be fully charged in just 3-4 hours using a 240-volt outlet, about half of the time that it takes to fill up the one in a Leaf. The main difference between the two is that the Nissan pack is air-cooled while the Focus has a more complex, liquid cooled and heated system that facilitates the use of a higher wattage on board charging system, 6.6 kW vs 3.3 kW, without causing damage to the battery.
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At the unveiling of the Focus Electric in New York, the car's chief engineer, Eric Kehun, said that Ford hasn't determined the range of the car yet, but that it will be better than the Chevrolet Volt's and competitive with the Leaf's, which puts it in a ballpark between 50 and 100 miles. Kehun added that prospective customers are prepared for the fact that they can't go as far as a gasoline-fueled car between fill-ups and are willing to adjust their driving style accordingly.
A navigation system with electric vehicle specific functions that coach owners to maximize their efficiency will be available with the car, as will a smartphone application that can control certain functions remotely. One lets you turn the climate control system on while the car is still plugged in, allowing you to begin your trip with a warm or cold car and a full battery.
The Focus Electric is Ford's first production passenger car and joins the Ford Transit Connect Electric cargo van in the company's growing electrified lineup. From 1998 until 2002 Ford offered a limited number of battery-powered Ranger pickup trucks mainly through leases, but recalled most of them after the program ended in 2004. Only a handful remain on the road.
Pricing for the Focus Electric hasn't been set, but Ford says that it will be competitive with similar vehicles on the market. The Nissan Leaf currently retails for $32,780. Both cars are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and various state incentives.
Ford has teamed up with electronics retailer Best Buy to offer a Ford-branded 240-volt home charging station for $1,499, which includes the cost of Geek Squad installation. The price is about 30 percent less than current offerings from other automakers.
The Focus Electric will be built in Wayne, Michigan at the same factory set to build the Focus. The car will be available in 19 cities across the country by the end of 2011, and will continue to roll out nationwide throughout 2012.