Ford's new Focus Electric is the company's first ever all-electric passenger car. It's strength is its normalness: it's a just a Focus, but an electric one.
Alongside self-conscious eco cars like the Nissan LEAF and Toyota Prius, the Focus Electric's conventional layout will appeal to many customers. But it's what's under the skin that really counts.
Focus Electric is powered by a lithium-ion battery system engineered by Ford and LG Chem, which is said to provide enough range for "the majority of daily driving habits of Americans" and a top speed of 84mph. It can be recharged in as little as three hours.
An active liquid cooling and heating system is used to raise the battery to working temperature and then keep it cool. The system heats or chills a coolant before pumping it through the battery cooling system. This loop regulates temperature throughout the system against external conditions. On hot days, chilled liquid absorbs heat from the batteries, dispersing it through a radiator before pumping it through the chiller again. On cold days, heated liquid warms the batteries, gradually bringing the system’s temperature to a level that allows it to efficiently accept charge energy and provide enough discharge power for expected vehicle performance.
North American owners will be able to recharge the battery pack using a 240-volt wall-mounted charge station that will be sold separately or the 120-volt convenience cord that comes with the vehicle.
When plugged in, the Focus Electric onboard charger converts AC power from the electric grid to DC power to charge the liquid-cooled/heated battery pack.
“With so many of us accustomed to recharging mobile electronics on a daily basis, we’re confident our customers will take to the vehicle recharging process just as easily, because that’s exactly what it is – easy,” said Nancy Gioia, Ford director of Global Electrification. “Not only have we made the practice of plugging in simple and straightforward, we’re working with leading technology companies and the utility industry to make the EV experience empowering and engaging.”
The Focus Electric is provided with a new version of the MyFord Touch navigation and information system. After adding their driving destinations, including their next charge point, into the navigation system, the Focus Electric will coach drivers on how to achieve the desired range – or if travel plans need to be adjusted. The navigation system provides an EcoRoute option based on characteristics of efficient EV driving.
The system displays battery state of charge, distance to charge point, the corresponding range budget and expected range margin. The system’s MyView feature allows drivers to access even more vehicle data including the electrical demands of vehicle accessories such as air conditioning, which can impact driving range.
The car's range display uses blue butterflies to represent the surplus range beyond the charge point destination – the more butterflies there are, the greater the range. Ford designers were inspired by the “butterfly effect,” in which a small change can have an enormous impact. At the end of each trip a display screen provides distance driven, miles gained through regenerative braking, energy consumed and a comparative gasoline savings achieved by driving electric.
Ford has developed a smartphone app (right) for Focus Electric owners in North America which allows remote monitoring of the car's state of charge and alerts the owner when charging is complete.
It also allows the owner to program the vehicle to use electricity from the grid to heat or cool the battery and cabin while plugged in – called preconditioning. Users can also locate the vehicle with GPS, remotely start the vehicle and remotely lock and unlock the car doors.
Ford believes the Focus Electric will appeal to buyers because it has a conventional appearance and shares many driving and ownership qualities with regular Focus models.
The Focus Electric’s steering, handling and braking feel is said to be similar to other Focus models. The electric drivetrain provides a "remarkably quiet, comfortable in-car experience."
“More than any other electric vehicle on the market, Focus Electric loses none of the dynamics and quality of driving a traditional car,” said Sherif Marakby, director of Ford’s electrification programs and engineering. “It shares many of the same premium components and features as its gasoline-powered counterpart, while delivering distinct efficiencies and a uniquely exciting driving experience.”