CES 2011: the Ford Focus Electric Reveal

Alan Mulally with the Focus Electric. Taken with a Nokia N8.

Hey folks, I was down in Las Vegas at the Hilton Convention Center at Alan Mulally’s keynote address for the reveal of the Ford Focus Electric, an open secret for the last few months. Glancing over the specs, it looks promising – particularly when you get to the recharge times of the 23kW battery …

Image provided by Ford

Recharge times are clearly one of two major bugbears of electric vehicles, a point made abundantly clear in the comments on the Tesla review. Ford is claiming that their 240 volt charging system will bring the Focus Electric up to the full mark in 3 to 4 hours. If that’s true, that’s about half the charging time that a Leaf takes to do the same thing, despite the Leaf’s similar 24kW battery capacity. The other issue with any electric vehicle is range. Ford’s press release on the Focus Electric is rather political about range, stating that it will be “sufficient for the needs of most Americans.” (Read: in the neighborhood of 100 miles.) Nothing groundbreaking here, although let’s not rule out the option of a quick top-up feature for mid-trip range issues. Personally, I think being to pull over and grab a half-hour’s worth of 110 and get an additional 20 or 30 miles worth of charge is going to be practically a necessity for any EV owner, at least until battery storage technology reaches a higher range potential.
Image provided by Ford

Another interesting feature, and one it should be noted that many automakers are rolling out at CES, is the ability to control the Focus Electric’s charging parameters remotely via a smartphone. It’s part of a integrated system of tools that are designed to help an owner learn how to maximize range, charge when electricity prices are lower (called “value charging” in Ford speak). You can also “precondition” the vehicle – warm it up before you drive in the winter or cool it in the summer. These all seem like useful features to help the owners of an electric vehicle survive in our petrochemical world, but it should be noted that Nissan is rolling out a suite of really similar tools on the Leaf. As a nod to the social/status implications of owning an EV, Ford’s MyFord Touch software you can unlock “achievements” about how green you’re driving is and then share them with your friends via social networking. Finally, if you need to reach a specific point within the Focus Electric’s range, the onboard SYNC nav system will coach you on reaching it.
Image taken with a Nokia N8,

So is the Focus Electric going to be a hit? The Prius has been very successful for a number of reasons, but my theory is that the most important virtue is its distinctiveness. Your neighbors all know what a Prius looks like, and you bought it partially to communicate to everyone that you drive a green car (not to knock Prius owners for that – we all convey messages with our cars). Unlike the Leaf or the Volt, two of the most direct competitors to the Focus Electric, it shares almost its entire design (with the exception of the Aston-esque grille, and unique and very attractive wheels) with the regular petroleum Focus. Is that a boon or a bust for consumers? I’m looking forward to the reaction the Focus Electric gets when it hits the hot, sweaty hands of journalists, but the ultimate test will be sales numbers. This should be interesting.
The trip to CES and the N8 phone that was used to take images and provide updates from the show were graciously provided by Nokia.

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  1. Manic_King Avatar

    So.. I just gave away my 1 yo Nokia 5800 because it was just so crappy compared to iPhone 3G I had before that. Bought HTC Legend. Now I'm Android fanboi, price was half the price of IPhone 4 (non-contract phones here) and I really don't see any point to pay double price for shiny Apple logo. How is the N8 Nokia?
    Oh, and Ford……this Aston grille is just really annoying somehow. Meh. But yeah, good they didn't take the oh-so-special-design route like Toyota and Honda with their e-car.

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      I am thinking of grabbing the HTC Evo this week… I hate my HTC Hero.

      1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

        The Evo is awesome. One of the best cameras in a phone we have too!

  2. muthalovin Avatar

    The future is now!
    So far, this is the best of the 'lectrics I have seen. Once gas hits $8.55USD in Palin's second term, I will probably look into get a used one.

    1. Samzebian Avatar

      I have an evo. Awesome phone. But if I were you I'd hold out for the next evo that should be coming out in spring/summer. They'll probably announce it at CTIA 2011 (around march)
      If you can't hold out, go for it. Either way you'll have a sick phone. If you wanna wait, root your hero and put a gingerbread rom on it or something. I had a hero as my 'test' phone to see if sprint had good coverage for about 2 weeks. It wasn't bad, but then I got my evo a few days later, returned the hero and it was so much faster.

  3. mdharrell Avatar

    Will it be available as a two-door hatchback?
    <img src="http://images.hemmings.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/pinto%201.jpg"&gt;

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Electric motor conversion kit for all Pintos: $2,750.
      Looking like a complete tool who just spent the better part of three grand making his Pinto horribly slow: Priceless.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Slower, true, but also less explodey.

        1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

          Don't be so hasty, I'm sure we could find a way.

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            I am prepared to stand delightfully corrected.

      2. TurboBrick Avatar

        "Horribly slow", is that an upgrade or a downgrade from "atrociously slow"?

  4. longrooffan Avatar

    Am I to infer the geeky d*bag from high school I mistakenedly accepted as a friend on FBook will now be able to update his automotive green status via my wall? Sh*t, I'm moving to the backwoods of Kentucky where the only websites I can get are Hooniverse, JustaCarGuy/Geek, Hemmings and Tamerlanes Thoughts. Later Hoons!!

  5. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Good luck, and keep your fingers crossed.
    Remember folks that those electric motors give you one hundred percent of torque at zero RPM.

  6. Tropical Ice Cube Avatar
    Tropical Ice Cube

    Hum. Very good, very good. Indeed. Let us all rejoice, save the planet and all that.
    Can't they just make it, I dunno, PRETTY?
    Wouldn't it help with sales and stuff, if looking at it wasn't hurting the eye?
    [And this comes from a Prius owner, ergo I am qualified about ugly cars; this one isn't even boldly horrible as the Prius is, more lame-toneless-tasteless boringly hideous. Sigh.]
    I'd rather drive the Pinto, but only with the whitewalls and the period stickers as shown.

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