Ford Focus Electric Challenges Nissan LEAF for Electric Car Leadership

By John Addison (updated 11/3/11; original 5/20/10)

May 2010, I enjoyed driving the new Ford Focus Electric. I had just finished my presentation to the Western Automotive Journalists and wanted to get behind the wheel of this new electric car. The 4-door sedan felt just like driving a regular gasoline Focus 4-door sedan, except it was more quiet and accelerated faster due to the torque of the electric motor. Although it was just a prototype, and Ford assured me that it would get better as the software controls are tuned, it felt more ready to go than my previous prototype test drive last October.

The handling was smooth while driving the Focus Electric. Unlike some electric car prototypes, when I hit the brakes, it stopped evenly and quickly. The coordination between regeneration and disc braking was effective. It’s not surprising that Ford is this far along. For several years, fleets have been driving the Ford Focus with an electric drive system and a hydrogen fuel cell to extend the electric range. The Ford Focus Electric will compete with the Nissan LEAF and others makers of electric cars and plug-in hybrids – Top 10 Electric Car Makers. Nissan will deliver 50,000 Nissan LEAFs before Ford starts delivering its electric Focus.

The 2012 Ford Focus Electric can now be ordered starting at $39,200. Since Ford is only planning on limited production in 2012, they can afford to price this electric car at $4,000 than the popular 2012 Nissan Leaf. The Focus Electric is fully $10,000 more than the smaller city electric Mitsubishi i.

Both the Focus Electric and Nissan LEAF are beautiful 5-door hatchbacks with passenger room and cargo flexibility that stretches their compact classification. Both have effective displays to select favorite music, navigate with dynamic maps to your preferred destination or nearest public charger. The LEAF display includes a back-up camera.

The Ford Focus Electric can be Level 2 charged at twice the speed of the 2012 Nissan LEAF. Although this will rarely matter when charging at home, it makes a big difference when using public charging. To get home, the Focus Electric might only require an hour of waiting at Starbucks; the 2012 LEAF could take 2 hours. The 2013 Nissan LEAF will charge at the same 6.6kw/h as the 2012 Ford Focus Electric. The LEAF, at no added cost, does included a second DC Fast Charge port for an 80 percent charge in about 26 minutes; although few such fast charge stations are currently available in the United States. Both can also be trickle charged from a normal dedicated 110 volt garage outlet.

Both cars qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit and strong incentives in many states. Nissan has a head start with individuals, but Ford is likely to take the lead with its long time fleet buyers. Fleets own over 14 million vehicles in the U.S.

The electric car is ideal for many who live in a city where range is rarely an issue, and where transit, car sharing, and car rental are also available. The average U.S. suburban household has two vehicles, so the electric car could be ideal as one of those two. For many people, this will not be the best vehicle because the range limitation will not meet their work or personal demands. These people should consider a plug-in hybrid or car with great mileage.

Electric Drive System

The Ford Focus Electric that I drove had a Magna drive system and a 23 kWh Ford designed battery pack using LG Chem Compact Power lithium-ion tri-metal cells with over 17 kWh available in the charge-discharge cycle. Ford is likely to match Nissan’s 100 mile range per electric charge. The battery currently weighs 500 pounds. Ford has a roadmap that envisions the battery eventually being reduced to a size of the current Focus gas tank and a weight of only 125 pounds using new battery chemistry.

Although some express concern about the long-term availability of lithium, Ford’s Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs, said that Ford’s analysis is that there will be no shortage through 2050. Battery makers expect to recycle 98 percent of the lithium in batteries.

Made in the USA

The Focus Electric will be made in America – Warren, Michigan. Ford is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford’s next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market. The Focus EV is part of the new Focus family available in the United States late 2010.

“The new Ford Focus is a clear demonstration that our ONE Ford strategy is providing global consumers with great products that harness the best of Ford Motor Company,” said Alan Mulally, Ford’s president and CEO. “The efficiencies generated by our new global C-car platform will enable us to provide Ford Focus customers with an affordable product offering quality, fuel efficiency, safety and technology beyond their expectations.” Ford is planning on a Global C platform for 12 to 14 different vehicles with a volume of 2 million units per year. Such volume, common chassis and many common components, can give Ford improved profit margins and room to price hybrid and electric cars competitively.

Best Electric Cars including Plug-in Hybrids 2011

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About Author: John Addison

Founder of the Clean Fleet Report, author of Save Gas, Save the Planet. John writes about electric cars, renewable energy, and sustainability. (c) Copyright John Addison. Permission to repost up to a 200 word summary if a link is included to the original article at Clean Fleet Report.

8 thoughts on “Ford Focus Electric Challenges Nissan LEAF for Electric Car Leadership

  1. Mike Streadwick
    March 10, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I would love to lease a Focus EV but can’t pin down a monthly price anywhere. Anybody have an idea what it might be? Buying one might be risky considering how fast it could become obsolete.

    • John Addison
      March 19, 2011 at 8:35 am

      Thanks for commenting about the Ford Focus Electric on Clean Fleet Report. Ford may not announce pricing until Fall 2011 or as late as the LA Auto Show. Ford feels that their new EV is as good as the LEAF, so they may match Nissan pricing. We could speculate a price as low as $29,900, but Ford probably has not yet made the pricing decision nor any leasing decisions.

  2. AllForElectric
    January 19, 2011 at 10:13 am

    @Julius: you can’t get extra energy out of the other wheels without adding drag (i.e. slow the car down), unless you’re intentionally braking – and that’s already being done through regenerative braking. No perpetuum mobile, sorry 🙂

  3. Caroll MN
    October 4, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Chris, If that’s your silver Focus EV, nice job on the conversion. I have been playing around with the idea of converting an ICE to electric but the cost for batteries that would get the range needed from me to get back and forth to work with a 27 mile one way commute scared me away. I need an EV with an 80 mile range to be comfortable driving it to work. That makes the factory Focus EV or Nissan Leaf very attractive to me.

  4. FocusEV Guy
    September 2, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I’ve been driving an electric Ford Focus for about 1 1/2 years, and it’s amazing how long it’s taking the big automakers to get these cars on the road. Why is it that one guy working in his garage can get this done so much quicker than the automakers with a large number of automotive engineers at their disposal?

    If you’re curious about how I got an electric Focus years in advance of the Ford product, do an internet search for “FocusEV”.

  5. Cyparo
    August 17, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Just as soon as Ford comes out with a Focus plug in hybrid wagon with a 300 mile range and 100 miles between charges, they will definately get my money.
    Thank you Ford Motor Company for stepping up to the plate!

  6. ziv
    July 31, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    If the Focus EV comes in under $35k MSRP it wil be a hit, it may be a miles or two short of the Leaf in range but it looks a lot better, and it is primarily domestically produced.
    The important thing though is that BEV’s with 80 to 110 mile range no longer cost more than $100,000 to build, like the EV1 did plus they now seat 4 or 5 people instead of just 2. It may have taken 8 or 9 years to get here, but BEV’s are not a rich mans toy any longer.

  7. Carlos
    July 9, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    But the EV 1, which had the same powertrain as this one, exist… Since 1999. But no, it was destroyed to please Big Oil and Big Bush.

    Don’t do like we are all ignorant.

Let us know what you think.