Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars in 2013 (January-June)

Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars in 2013 (January-June)

 

Prius c

Prius c – A trio of Prius among top sellers

The year 2013 is half over and the auto industry is doing quite well, led by high mileage vehicles that are outperforming the overall industry in sales growth. As more and more pure electrics, plug-in cars, hybrids and clean diesels appear on the U.S. market, consumers are embracing them. And the backdrop is an auto industry with sales climbing back toward its pre-recession numbers, a return built on sales of profitable full-size pickups and the traditionally solid-selling mid-size car models.

One item of note at the mid-year mark is that the slice of the market held by hybrids, plug-ins and diesels is nearing five percent of the overall market. Of course, high-mpg cars and trucks running conventional gasoline engines are also proliferating. Continuing high gas and diesel prices as well as the broader acceptance of these “alternative” vehicles point toward an ever-growing presence for what not too long ago were vehicles on the fringe of the market.

We at Clean Fleet Report have been tracking the Top 10 best sellers month-to-month and note that all through the last six months the same 15 models have been jockeying for the Top 10 spots, with several separated by no more than a few dozen cars. It also appears that a couple models are becoming established as the leaders in their categories and overall sales continue to be dominated by two or three models–the usual suspects being the Toyota Prius Liftback among hybrids and the Volkswagen Jetta TDI among diesels. The only semblance of a sales “race” is in the plug-in category – the only competitive one of three –and the fastest growing category. There the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf, both pure electrics, are locked in a sales battle with the Chevy Volt. The winners, of course, are all of the car buyers enjoying these new technologies.

Details on sales for the first six months of the year as well as the month of June (parenthetically) follow. Because the numbers are so close, we’ve expanded the list to the Top 12. It’s shaping up to be a record year for these high mpg cars.

1. Toyota Prius – 76,809 – (14,066) The Prius is unchallenged as the leader among all of the alternatives. Even with sales dropping slightly from the previous year, it captures almost a third of all hybrid sales and is charting among the top 10 selling cars in the overall market.

2. Toyota Camry Hybrid – 23,834 – (3,878) The Camry’s hybrid version is a solid second best among hybrids, challenged only slightly by the “baby” Prius.

3. Toyota Prius c – 20,575 – (3,442) The “baby” Prius continues to attract entry-level hybrid seekers. This smallest, least expensive hybrid in the Toyota lineup helped Toyota to a 1-2-3 podium finish among hybrid sales, Ford is mounting a challenge.

4. Volkswagen Jetta TDI – 20,454 – (3,940) The clean diesel standard-bearer finished strong with a great month in June where it was second only to the Prius Liftback in sales. It accounts for fully one-third of diesel sales at this point.

5. Ford Fusion Hybrid – 20,283 – (3,057) The flagship of fuel economy at Ford is leading a challenge by that automaker to Toyota’s dominance of the hybrid segment, although its approach to fuel economy includes plug-in versions of the Fusion and C-Max, an all-electric Focus and its conventional EcoBoost engines.

6. Toyota Prius V – 18,616 – (2,987) The Prius “wagon” has had a good first half of the year, helping Toyota to take four of the top six spots in this survey.

7. Ford C-Max Hybrid – 17,858 – (2,889) Ford’s hybrid “wagon,” along with the Prius V, demonstrates that there is a clear demand for more versatility along with good fuel economy. It’s the top-selling new model in this survey.

8. Volkswagen Passat TDI – 16,655 – (3,405) The Jetta’s “big brother” had a great June, which helped to make up for a slow first half of the year. But the model continues to hold a solid second place spot in the clean diesel market, giving VW the domination in the diesel market similar to Toyota’s with hybrids.

9. Tesla Model S – 10,650 – (1,800) Tesla’s pure electric has estimated sales numbers (they release the official ones when they report their quarterly earnings), but production has been steadily increasing during the year as the company fills its orders for its expensive, but exquisite sedan. If the production continues to increase, it could potentially move up this survey and challenge some of the best-selling hybrids and diesels.

10. Chevrolet Volt – 9,855 – (2,698) The Volt had a strong June that boosted it into the top 10 for the first half of the year. While sales are below the optimistic forecasts of a couple years ago, the car has established itself as the leader among plug-in hybrids.

Hyundai, Sonata,hybrid

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid continue to sell well

11. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – 9,851 – (2,129) Although Hyundai’s hybrid models doesn’t get as much attention in the media as the Toyota or Ford hybrid models, its sales (and those of the sister model, Kia Optima Hybrid)

remain respectable.

12. Nissan Leaf – 9,839 – (2,225) A strong June with some intensive marketing and a good supply of models in the showroom left the Leaf in a virtual tie with the Volt among plug-ins with only 16 sales separating the two models.

Bubbling below the Top 10 (or 12 in this case) are several models that help boost hybrid sales. The Toyota Avalon Hybrid, Lexus ES Hybrid, Chevy Malibu Hybrid and Lexus CT 200h Hybrid don’t rack up big numbers, but they add to the strength of the segment – and cumulatively accounted for more than 32,000 additional hybrid sales.

Something to keep an eye on are new models just coming into the market that might make an impact in the second half of the year. The new hybrids include the VW Jetta Hybrid and BMW ActiveHybrid 3 – new hybrid models for the best-selling cars for those two brands. In the diesel world the big news is the Chevy Cruze Diesel, which went on sale in June, while a Ram 1500 Diesel pickup and Mazda6 Skyactiv-D Diesel will be out later in the year. Plug-ins will welcome the Chevy Spark EV among a lineup that is almost all models that have been on the market less than a year.

Posted July 28, 2013 (compiled with Hybridcars.com & Automotive News information as reported by manufacturers)

Other similar stories you might like:

The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy–Finally

Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars in May 2013

Electric Car Price Wars

Top 10 Hybrids That Will Really Save You Money

Top 10 Hybrids That Will Really Save You Money

lincoln,MKZ hybrid,best buy,mpg

2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid-The Best Buy

“Hybrid” has become a magic word that’s synonymous with fuel economy for many car buyers, thanks mainly to the Toyota Prius. The common assumption is that the hybrid version of a car will deliver great fuel economy–or at least better mpg than a comparable gas version, resulting in a more economical vehicle to own. While the fuel economy part of that line of thinking is correct, as you probably know, the total cost of owning a vehicle is much more than the cost of the fuel you put in it. In fact, according to some analysts, the fuel portion of vehicle ownership is only about one-fourth to one-fifth of the cost of owning a vehicle. It’s a higher percentage for non-hybrid models (27 percent compared to 20 percent for hybrids on average) according to the Michigan-based automotive analyst organization, Vincentric.

That company looked at 36 hybrid models from 2012 and 2013 (and 12 trim levels within those models) and their conventional counterparts and found that when you look beyond fuel economy to the initial cost of the vehicle and expected depreciation, not all hybrids delivered a lower cost of ownership. They found the incremental cost of a hybrid car or truck to be on average $5,285 more than a conventional model.  The good news is that cost differential has gone down by more than $3,000 compared to Vincentric’s similar comparison last year. Hybrids make up some of that cost differential by having better residual values (the value of a car at the end of a lease or ownership, in this case after five years) and of course deliver great savings in fuel costs. But overall, hybrids, again on average, during a five-year, 100,000 life will cost $1,582 more than a non-hybrid model.

Cost of Ownership Lower For Some, But Not All

In spite of those discouraging numbers, hybrids continue to increase their popularity and Vincentric found that among the 36 models, some did deliver better total cost of ownership than conventional models. Some did not,

ford,fusion hybrid,best buy, mpg

2012 Ford Fusion-Better Buy than the 2013?

including the Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius Liftback (the best-selling hybrid) and some models of the popular Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Vincentric made the comparison based on heavy use, typical of commercial fleets, assuming 20,000 annual miles drive over five years. As well, they took into account depreciation, financing, fees and taxes, fuel, insurance, maintenance and repairs.

What you will notice in this compilation is that some of the more expensive luxury hybrids ended up delivering better value because of the significance of the fuel savings as well as higher residual value. Of note is how some of the most popular hybrid models fared–the three Prius models (c, Liftback, V). The problem with these three is there are no exact comparable models, so Vincentric compared the Toyota c to the Toyota Yaris (on which it is based), the Liftback to a Corolla and the V to a Matrix.  In order, after five years, the c cost $624 less than the Yaris while the Liftback cost $1,823 more than the Corolla and the V did the best of the three, coming in at $1,707 less than the Matrix.

So, here are 10 models that Vincentric said will deliver the best return after five years. These are the hybrids that actually will save you money in the long run.

Top 10 (*good comparison car, i.e., a non-hybrid version of the same model)

*2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (which is offered at the same price as conventional MKZ)

*2012 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid S400HV

*2013 Porsche Panamera Hybrid S

2013 Lexus HS 250h (now out of production)

*2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium

*2013 Lexus ES 300h

*2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid (not as good in 2013)

2013 Honda Insight

*2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2012 Toyota Prius V

The range of savings among the Top 10 is fairly large, from $6,402 for the Lincoln MKZ to $1,707 for the Prius V. Spread out over five years, the Prius V savings equal a little more than $340 a year, or a little less than a $1 a day. The glass half full version of that is: You’re saving money every day. That’s what hybrids have promised and many deliver. The promise is even more will deliver better savings in the future as the incremental cost of hybrid systems continue to drop due to improvements in technology and increased production.

For more articles on this subject, check out:

The Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars in May 2013

Microhybrids Are Big MPG Boosters, Report Says

The Top 10 2014/2013 AWD & 4WD SUVs/Crossovers With the Best MPG

Electric Car Price Wars

Electric Car Price Wars

The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

fiat,500e,electric car

Fiat 500e – Sold Out or Sell Out?

Cut-throat price wars are common enough in the auto industry, but ones that include green cars are pretty rare. Remember, these are the cars that several auto makers have been quick to say they would lose money on and, on top of that, were not sure consumers would buy at any price.

Maybe it’s a function of the expansion of the market; as noted earlier, there are now 10 different pure electric models for sale from major manufacturers. That kind of competition in an admittedly early market doesn’t bode well for margins.

So the headlines have quickly turned from “Who will buy these electric cars?” to “Electric cars are sold out.”  Automakers generally (Nissan and Chevrolet are the exceptions) not committed to produce large volumes of these vehicles for the reasons they are quick to enumerate–the market is uncertain, the vehicles’ retail cost is high and production cost even higher and the functionality of the cars is significantly less than a typical gas or diesel-powered alternative.

The flip side of those arguments made by EV-advocates is a mirror image–there is a large pent-up demand for alternatives to the internal combustion engine, early versions of new technology may lose money but the volumes will increase and profits will come, and the functionality of a typical electric car serves the majority of uses most people use their cars for on a daily basis (and alternatives are readily available for the exceptions).

The truth lies somewhere in between these two extremes. Nissan and Chevrolet, along with BMW, appear to be strongly committed to electric mobility, though all three are taking different paths. Nissan is aggressively pricing its Leaf electrics, increasing local production to lower costs, adding battery capacity and features to new models. The Leaf and the extended range electric Chevy Volt have been trading the top spot in sales during the past year with the latest clash echoing the way auto companies typically respond to a marketplace challenge–match your competition’s pricing.

Tesla the exception

Only Tesla with its high-end Model S appears to be immune from the down-and-dirty of retail selling, but they are still in the mode of producing cars to fill existing orders and are in the process of expanding to overseas markets.

So, back in the showrooms, Honda’s Fit EV and Chevy Volt both announced new, lower lease rates. Nissan lowered the Leaf retail price. The Ford Focus Electric, Chevy Spark EV and Fiat 500e already had lease rates as low as

honda,fit EV,electric car, sales

Honda Fit EV – Popular Now

many conventional cars. The result: reports that the Fit EV and 500e were “sold out.” For electric car advocates, it was vindication of their faith in the market. Automakers shrugged, however, as both Honda and Fiat said they would not increase production on a car on which they were losing money ($10,000 per vehicle according to Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne). Toyota with its RAV4 EV and BMW with its Active-E model similarly have limited production, but don’t appear to be concerned about sales and have stayed out of the retail price wars.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV volume low

The odd man out here appears to be the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Sales of the small electric car have been quite low, averaging a little less than 150 per month during the first half of the year. They are also running special offers and recently closed a deal to send 50 units to cities in Santa Clara County in Northern California.

Of course, another driver in these price wars is knowledge that further competition is coming. Next year the BMW i3, Mercedes B-Class E-Cell and Golf-E are due to hit the market. Along with that several new plug-in hybrids should be for sale, so consumer choice is only going to expand. The electric car market doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. So, it appears the thought by automakers is to lock in as many consumers now as early as possible. The good news is the competition has created some real bargains and the potential to lower the up-front cost to the point where an electric car suddenly makes economic as well as environmental sense.

Additional stories on the subject you might like:

The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy Now!

Ford Focus Electric-First Drive

Fiat 500e road test

 

2013 Honda CR-V: Road Test

2013 Honda CR-V: Road Test

honda,CR-V,awd,fuel economy

2013 Honda CR-V

[Ed note: The 2013 Honda CR-V is #10 among our Top 10 most fuel efficient SUV/AWD vehicles for 2013]

When Honda introduced the CR-V in 1997, gasoline was around $1.25 per gallon and the little runabout’s fuel economy of 19 mpg city/ 21 mpg highway didn’t play a big role in people’s choice of the vehicle.

Today [ed. note: July 2013], the national average for a gallon of gas is $3.54, according to AAA, and fuel economy is now at, or near the top of the list for many new car buyers.

Fuel economy is most certainly a contributing factor in the 2013 CR-V’s 145,000-plus sales through June. Honda’s smallest sport utility (crossover, if you prefer, since it rides on a car-based platform) tops the elusive 30-mpg highway barrier, with 23 city/31 highway. The all-wheel drive versions are rated at 22/30.

That’s quite remarkable when you consider the first edition’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produced 126 horsepower and the 2013 model employs a larger 2.4-liter four that puts out 185 horsepower.

The CR-V was completely redesigned in 2012 with new sheet metal and cabin design, more standard features and an updated powertrain with improved fuel economy. Like the original, this CR-V is based on the same structure as the Honda Civic compact car.

This fourth-generation CR-V is handsomely aerodynamic, sophisticated and nicely proportioned. The front features a three-bar grille and large multi-reflector halogen headlights that are deeply set into the fenders.

Large wheels and bold fender wells combine with sculpted side body panels give a pseudo-aggressive look. In profile, the sweeping roofline has an almost coupe-like appearance.

Backside, the CR-V’s signature vertical taillights are larger than the previous model, with the base extending into the rear body panels in a hockey stick style. The tops of the lights merge with the rear spoiler helping to improve aerodynamic drag.

Inside, the airy passenger compartment is pleasantly laid out, with ergonomically sound controls, clear instrumentation, and solid, upscale materials. The navigation system doesn’t always understand spoken commands, but you’ll never tire of the precision and tactile rewards built into every knob and button.

Front seats are well shaped and supportive. The standard tilt/telescoping steering column and height adjustable driver’s seat assists drivers of all sizes in finding a comfortable position. Honda again has mounted the transmission shift lever on the lower part of the dashboard near the driver’s knee, freeing up space for a large center console.

honda,cr-V,cargo, fuel economy

2013 Honda CR-V Cargo Space

Second row seating provides enough head, shoulder and legroom to comfortably seat two adults for an all-day drive. In case your passengers happen to be toddlers rather that adults, fitting all forms of car seats is a breeze.

Behind the second row there’s 37.2 cubic feet of cargo space. A clever mechanism folds the rear seat even with the rear load floor at the pull of a single lever or strap, expanding cargo volume to 70.9 cubic feet – more space than you’ll find in most affordable compact SUVs.

To be competitive, standard on all trim levels includes remote keyless entry; power locks, windows and outside mirrors; cruise control; air conditioning; and an AM/FM/CD audio system. One standard feature of particular note is a rearview backup camera.

Honda brings the latest CR-V closer to the class leaders for basic infotainment features by finally installing as standard on every model such modern necessities as Bluetooth hands-free phone connection, music streaming and a USB iPod interface.

Like others in the class, available options incude leather upholstery, an upgraded audio system and a navigation system. Unusual for small sport utilities, Honda offers a rear DVD entertainment system. However, it is not available if you want the navigation system.

With the CR-V, Honda turns a little package into a lot of fun in a back-to-basics sort of way. It feels nimble and light on its feet and when it comes to ride and handling, the CR-V doesn’t stray far from its Civic roots. The four-wheel independent suspension —  MacPherson struts up front, multi-link in rear — enables the tires to keep in close contact with the pavement. As such, it feels stable when rounding curves and turning corners. And, the suspension soaks up most examples of bad pavement with minimal disruption to occupant comfort.

The drivetrain will be familiar to the Honda faithful. Power is derived from a dual-overhead cam in-line four-cylinder engine that features Honda’s i-VETEC “intelligent” valve control system. Horsepower output of 185 is

honda,CR-V,engine,fuel economy

2013 Honda CR-V engine

among the leaders in its competitive set but torque of 185 pounds feet is below average. Torque – the force that gets the vehicle moving – is more important to the feel of acceleration than horsepower – the energy that keeps the vehicle moving.

Our CR-V test driver had enough power on hand to dash through traffic and cruise along with fast-moving traffic. Where it came up short was on long grades with a full load of passengers and luggage. The engine had to spin along in full song and the five-speed automatic transmission needed to hang on to a low gear to keep up with traffic.

Like most of its competitors, the all-wheel drive system is not suited for serious off-road use. But Honda’s Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System not only instantaneously shuffles power between the front and rear axles to benefit traction on both wet, snow and dry surfaces, it is quite capable on gravel or dirt trails.

Also, the CR-V has a 1,500-pound tow rating. So, if you want to pull a small tent trailer or haul a couple of ATVs or snowmobiles to your favorite out-of-the-way place, the CR-V is up to the task.

While small in size, the CR-V has all the safety biggies: six airbags, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction control and stability control. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the CR-V a “2013 Top Safety Pick.”

Competitive pricing is a must in the compact sport utility segment and the CR-V starts at $27,795 plus $830 destination charges for the base LX front drive, $24,045 the AWD version. Following Honda practice, the CR-V doesn’t offer options per se, coming instead in well-defined trim levels that increase features as they climb the price ladder. Front drive versions can top off at $29.045, AWD at $30,295.

On a day-to-day basis the Honda CR-V will perform its driving duties admirably, offering affordable commuting as well as providing space for kids, gear and pets.

 

Other related stories you might want to check out:

Top 10 2014/2013 AWD & 4WD SUVs/Crossovers

Better Fuel Economy Front & Center at the NY Auto Show

All-Wheel-Drive Cars and SUVs with Best Mileage

2013 Ford Focus Electric–First Drive

2013 Ford Focus Electric–First Drive

ford,focus,electric car

Ford Focus Electric – Style & No Petroleum

Like Mitsubishi, Ford also opted to transform an existing car into an E-ride and chose the Focus hatchback compact car for its first pure electric car. This means the Electric is built on the same assembly line as the gasoline Focus in Wayne, Michigan. This offers Ford the option of increasing or decreasing EV production depending on demand.

In the past Ford has said it wants its hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars to be more than a niche, and that it’s about affordable transportation for the masses. With the Focus Electric, the automaker is at least on the “verge” of being affordable. The 2013 Focus Electric is priced at $39,200 before any federal or state incentives.

However, a part of affordability has to do with fuel economy, and this is where the Focus Electric shines. To help consumers compare fuel efficiency between gasoline or diesel cars and electric cars, the EPA has developed a formula called miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe). Focus Electric has an MPGe rating of 110 City/99 Highway and 105 Combined.

Ford introduced the electric version of the new Focus first in California, New York and New Jersey—before it expanded distribution to 19 additional markets. Those 19 markets include Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh Durham, Richmond, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tucson and Washington, D.C. The rest of the US will have to wait awhile.

Powertrain Details

To convert the gas powered Focus to an EV, an electric motor replaces the gasoline engine and a L-shaped battery pack is placed under the rear seat and between the rear wheels. Directing power from the electric motor to the front wheels is a simple, direct drive single-speed transmission that takes the place of the standard transmission.

The water-cooled alternating current, 107-kilowatt synchronous permanent magnetic motor generates 143 horsepower and a generous 184 pounds-feet of torque at 0 rpm. On its way to an 84 mph top speed, its estimated that from a stop to 60 mph takes the Focus EV around 9.5 seconds.

Feeding the motor is a 23-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack with more than 17 kWh available in the charge-discharge cycle. The battery pack employs an actively liquid cooled and heated system that allows stable battery operation by maintaining an optimal range of temperature.

While driving, regenerative braking recovers more than 95 percent of the energy normally lost and stores it in the battery. Every time the car coasts or brakes are applied, the electric motor acts as an electric generator and coverts the energy to electricity.

Getting Charged Up

Ford pulled off a one-upsmanship on the Nissan Leaf by equipping the Focus with a 6.6-kW on-board charger. It adds about 20 miles of driving range for every hour of charging, instead of 10 miles for each hour supplied by

ford,focus,electric car,plug-in

Focus Electric Plugs From the Side

the Leaf’s 3.6-kW charger (ed. note: Nissan upgraded to a 6.6 charger for 2013 as an option on some models, standard on others). Filling the battery with electrons when empty takes about four hours using Ford’s 240-volt Level 2 home recharging unit versus the Leaf’s seven to 10 hours. However, charge time of around 20 hours using a standard 120-volt plug receptacle is essentially the same as the Leaf’s.

Developed with Leviton, Ford’s home charging station is priced at $1,495, including normal installation (normal meaning a home already properly wired for its voltage and amperage). And, unlike other units, the charging station can simply be unplugged if you relocate—electrician not required to remove it.

For hardcore, and well-healed, greenies, Ford has teamed up with solar system maker SunPower. A 2.5-kilowatt rooftop solar panel system will provide Focus Electric owners enough renewable energy production to offset the energy used for charging. The solar panels produce an average of 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough output to accommodate a customer who drives 12,000 miles a year. Assuming “normal” installation, the installed cost is $10,000 after federal tax credits.

Styling

An all-new Ford Focus was introduced in late 201l as a 2012 model. Designed by Ford’s European arm, it follows the company’s “kinetic” styling themes, which the automaker calls an “energy in motion” look. It’s an edgy, adventurous exterior characterized by a disport ensemble of swoops and wedges.

Like the standard Focus hatchback, the Electric has an athletic profile that features a raked roofline. Tires mounted on 17-inch aluminum wheels fill the wheel wells, giving the car an “it’s time to rock ’n roll” performance look. The big difference between the two is up front. Rather than the gas-powered Focus’s single bar grille and almost menacing looking gaping mouth flanked by bold triangle intakes, the Electric has a more stately, Aston Martin-like design with narrow horizontal crossbars. On either side of the new grille, HID headlamps sweep gracefully up and into muscular front fenders. The tail end of the Focus is quite distinctive with a large rear spoiler and giant taillamps that wrap around the corners.

A Tech-Rich Cabin

Interior quality is a giant leap from the previous generation Focus. Material quality is arguably the best in the small car class, heavy on soft touch surfaces with an astute mix of stout plastic panels. All are nicely grained or show a stylish matte finish, and the switchgear features a no-slip shape or coating. The cabin has a spacious feeling, though backseat legroom is tight.

The Electric’s dashboard mimics the standard Focus and is designed for those comfortable using all manner of mobile infotainment devices—perhaps a turn off for older buyers. The four-spoke steering wheel is the same, including a pair of buttons on two spokes along with cruise control operation and Ford’s SYNC, the integrated communications and entertainment system.

The instrument cluster has a centrally mounted speedometer with a pair of color displays on either side. The right screen displays climate, entertainment and navigation as well as a driving efficiency graphic of blue butterflies. The left screen delivers relevant EV information such as available range and battery state of charge.

Mounted in the center console is an eight-inch screen that features MyFord Touch infotainment system. It fetches up audio, navigation, phone and climate controls that some reviewers rave about while others say that at best, the almost knob-less and button-less interface is confusing and frustrating to operate.

What’s not confusing to operate is the gear shifter. Rather than some weird gear selections, the Focus Electric has the standard PRNDL — park, reverse, neutral, drive and low — positions that everyone is familiar with.

But wait, there’s more technology. The standard MyFord Mobile app, available for iOS, Android, and Blackberry, helps EV drivers locate local charging stations, plan trips, view current battery status and manage remote charging. For the social-connected crowd, a gaming feature lets owners share accomplishments on Facebook and Twitter.

Basically, the Focus Electric comes standard with the same trim level as the top-of-line Titanium edition of the gasoline Focus, meaning that it is thoroughly appointed. Standard features include: Intelligent Access with push-button start; power locks, windows and outside mirrors; dual-zone climate controls; heated front seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel; Sony nine-speaker audio system; satellite and HD radio; ambient lighting; and a rear camera with rear parking sensor. The only options are leather seats and two paint colors.

When it comes to safety, the Focus Electric has all the biggies: Anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, dual front airbags, drive and front passenger side-protection airbags and curtain side airbags.

Driving The Focus Electric

When the 2012 Focus arrived, auto critics penned high praise about its ride, handling and braking characteristics. Since the Electric version has the same structure and independent front and rear suspension, it’s no surprise that many of these same reviewers give the EV high marks. Road and Track commented, “Apart from its EV quietness, the car’s road-going demeanor does little to set it apart from its gasoline-fueled counterpart.” And Automobile magazine remarked, “With the independent multilink rear suspension, no untoward body motions are observed. The ride is perfectly acceptable, thanks to recalibrations made necessary by the extra weight (of the batteries).”

A quiet ride is synonymous with the electric car driving experience as noted by the New York Times’ reviewer, “Battery-powered cars are intrinsically quiet, the motor sound falling between a whir and a whisper. But the Focus is deep-space silent, the quietest of the many electric cars I’ve driven.”

Mark Vaughn, AutoWeek’s West Coast editor and an i-MiEV owner, said, “The Focus Electric is the quietest EV we’ve driven yet. Ford spent time and energy adding sound insulation throughout the vehicle and damping down everything that might disturb its compact serenity. You won’t hear gears whining, clicks clacking or switches switching.” He added, “Stomp on the throttle, and it’s hard to feel any torque steer at all.”

A Compliance EV?

Ford has not aggressively marketed the Focus Electric and it shows on the sales charts. Through May of this year just 723 Focus E-cars have found their way to consumer driveways. In contrast, Nissan has racked up 7,814 Leaf sales during the same period.

So, is the Focus Electric’s purpose to comply with California’s zero-emission mandate? Well, sort of.

Obviously Ford has to sell an increasing number of no-emission vehicles to meet the state’s rules. However, by 2018 when automakers will have to double the number of zero emission vehicles sold in California, the Focus Electric will have paved the way for the company to have a solid battery platform in place.

The EV For You?

If you want a car that doesn’t run on liquid fuels, the Focus Electric has few competitors. That includes the funky styled Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which is smaller than the Focus, has a shorter driving range and longer charging time, and starts at $29,125.

Nissan’s Leaf is the closest comparable EV. The new entry Leaf model S, priced at $28,800, is $10,400 less than the Focus Electric and comes out on top when comparing electric fuel economy, 129 city, 102 highway and 115 combined MPGe.

The Focus EV does have a decided advantage when it comes to battery charge time if you are comparing it to the Leaf S with a 3.6-kw onboard charger. While both vehicles require around 20 hours to charge from a standard household 120-volt outlet, the Focus Electric needs just four hours charge from a 240-volt outlet versus the Leaf’s seven-hour charge time with the same voltage. However, a 6.5-kw charger is optional on the S model and standard on both the SV and SL editions and matches the Ford’s charge time.

Both the Focus Electric and Leaf will whiz by gas stations while producing zero emissions, and most owners of either car will recoup at least a few thousand dollars of the premium from lower fuel and maintenance costs.

So, which of the two battery electric cars are for you?

The final decider between the Focus Electric and Leaf could be styling. For those who don’t want to show off their environmental leanings, the Focus EV is designed for the generic aisle of the dealership. Its styling is edgy, sporty, decidedly European and its green credentials are incognito. The Leaf, on the other hand, is a dedicated design with distinctive styling — no upfront grille, bulging headlights, wide rear end and odd proportions combined say, “I’m a green car.”

Tough choice, huh? But if you want to drive one of the sharpest-looking cars on the road while smiling to yourself because you have no personal connection to OPEC, the Focus Electric might be the EV for you.

Prices are Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) at time of writing and do not include destination charges, taxes or licensing. Also, prices don’t reflect the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles or additional credits offered by some states.