Ford Focus Electric Initial Impressions

Ford has embarked upon a national tour with its Focus Electric in both the U.S. and Canada, stopping at major cities to allow members of the public to have a look.

Recently, we were invited to sample the car and here’s our first impression. Everything about the Focus Electric smacks of being low key, from its exterior colors, to its marketing strategy that is going after the three most pro EV vehicle markets initially, California, New Jersey and New York, and the fact that save for the grille and some exterior badging, it doesn’t look much different from its gasoline counterpart.

Inside it’s a similar story, conventional looking dash, shifter and console. The instrument cluster features a central mounted speedometer, though somewhat similar to the Fusion Hybrid with its ‘”leaves” has a butterfly graphic display to the right of it. This is designed to encourage smooth progressive driving, the more butterflies appear; the more efficient you’re being behind the wheel.

And in terms of actual driving, the Focus Electric behaves very much like a regular compact. Acceleration is rather brisk off the line, despite the car’s approximate 3,600-pound curb weight. It’s also responsive through the corners, demonstrating dynamic prowess superior to some other pure EVs and even hybrids we’ve sampled.

Although we weren’t given the chance to get it up to cruising speeds, the Focus pulls steady as velocity increases, so we have no problem in believing it will easily reach its advertised top speed of 84 mph.

One thing that is a bit of a surprise is braking. Most pure EVs feel like they’re dragging a tree behind once the braking system goes into regenerative mode. In this case, it’s almost as if Ford has deliberately chosen to make stopping “feel” as close as possible to a regular car. The thing is, in our view, braking feels more like that of a 1970s Detroit land yacht, being feather light and perhaps a bit alarming, at least at first.

In terms of practicality, while the lithium-ion battery takes up a bit of trunk space, due to its location under the seat, cargo volume isn’t that compromised, so as an urban runabout, the Focus Electric might make better sense than some other EVs.

Ford says, that thanks to an onboard charging system that’s configured for 6.6 kilowatts – double that of the Nissan Leaf’s 3.3-kw charger – the Focus Electric can be re-juiced in four hours using a 240-volt outlet. What’s more, Ford is offering a $1,499 home charging station to help make it more appealing.

Still, at a price of $39,995, the Focus Electric is by no means inexpensive and with an EPA projected range of 76 miles, it’s still very much a car for early adopters, despite being in many respects far more conventional than either the Leaf or Mitsubishi i.

Nonetheless, if new-generation battery packs are able to significantly extend the range of cars like this, then the Focus Electric likely stands a better chance of convincing motorists about the benefits of EV technology, due to its inherently more mainstream personality.

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  • CharlesF

    So with sales of the Leaf slowing (just 510 last month), does the Ford method of building EVs and hybrids look like a better idea? I am sure some here think it is only green washing. Time will tell.

  • Bloggin

    It seems Leaf sales have slowed when Ford announced retail deliveries, with many opting for the much nicer Focus Electric, for less than $2k difference. Don’t even think about leaving a Nissan dealer with the cheap version offered. Then with the $7500 rebate and the %2500 CA rebate, it’s $29,995. Then deduct the $160+ per month you won’t spend on gasoline, about $2k per year, you bring down the monthly auto expense (lease of $436) to a more reasonable $276. That’s only $20 more per month than a Titanium model.

  • James Davis

    I reckon Ford priced the Focus Electric close to GM’s Volt because when you compare them at a side view, they look so much alike that you can hardly tell the difference in which is which. It is nice though that Ford is throwing in a $20.00 (price of a 240 outlet) charging station that they claim cost $1,500.00. What happened to the solar panels they said they were going to toss in with the charging station?

    I have always liked Ford, but their electric can get lost in a crowd or a WalMart parking lot.

  • CharlesF

    A Volt and a Focus hatchback have the same side view? Mr. Davis I think you need new glasses. I do agree that the Focus EV could get lost in the WalMart parking lot. I think that is part of the point. It is a normal car, that happens to be an EV.

  • Van

    Yet another 75 mile range EV. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it is pretty much of a given that a real world range of 120 miles or more is needed for an EV. That means the OEM’s need the second generation Lithium car battery so they can put 42 KWh of capacity into the EV and still sell it for under $40,000.

    Until then, most of us will be looking at plug-in hybrids with a 20 mile or more range.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    Ford has it right with regular hybrids, plug-ins and pure EV’s coming….great way to hedge which type will thrive.


  • perfectapproach

    I’d still buy a Volt, but Ford has the right idea. It doesn’t have to look like a beaver from Mars to be electric/hybrid. Can’t wait to see the Cadillac ELR in a few years!

  • CharlesF

    Van, let me know how you like your new Volt.

  • Van

    Hi CharlesF, I expect to be buying my next car in 2015. So I hopefully will be able to consider the plug in Fusion, PIP, and Volt. Time will tell if the second generation battery will allow a 20 mile range at an affordable price (for my budget.)

  • CharlesF

    @Van, my next car maybe early next year. I hope a C-Max plug-in, if my bikes fit in the back (they do not fit in a Prius v). If not maybe the C-Max, or the Volt. The PIP all electric range is just too small and fragile. I do not think the C-Max will have an all EV range as robust or as long as the Volt’s, but I hope it is not as fragile and short as the PIP’s.

    Good luck with holding out until 2015.

  • Jim B.

    If you want to compare the Focus Electric to the Volt, please note the Focus carries 5 people. The volt carries 4.
    Try thinking of range capability at the household level instead of at the driver level.
    If you live in a single car household, the Volt makes a lot of sense, as most miles will be electric and you still have the range of the gas engine.
    If you live in a multi-car household where one is a gas car or PHEV, the Focus Electric is a no brainer. Why have all the hassle and maintenance of two piston engines?

  • Lou C. Geusy

    “Yet another 75 mile range EV. … most of us will be looking at plug-in hybrids with a 20 mile or more range.”

    Absolutely. These all-electric vehicles are ridiculous and a complete waste of good lithium. They are giving the whole high-efficiency movement a bad name. I got a Prius-V this spring. It is fantastic — right about 48 MPG in all kinds of driving (I have a light foot), and I don’t have a bit of mileage anxiety.

    Instead of wasting time on these absurd pure EVs that can’t safely get you any farther than a neighborhood grocery store, the manufacturers ought to be working on vehicles people can actually use at a price people can afford. Toyota gets it. I wish the others did.

  • CharlesF

    @Lou, it is obvious that a pure EV does not fit your lifestyle. It does not fit mine as well. It does fit a friend of mine’s very well. She has a Leaf, and is very happy with it. I see a few Leafs around the RTP area of NC. I assume that their EVs fit their lifestyles.

    I am glad we finally can pick what fits our lifestyles. Just a 12 or so years ago, you could only buy a gas powered car. Then the hybrids came along. The first two hybrids were too small for a lot of people, and were really just commuter cars for many, much as people use the Leaf and Focus EVs are today. Then the hybrids got to be very practical (Prius Gen 2, Escape Hybrid, Camry Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid). Now we have a lot more hybrids, with more on the way, which will extend the range of car types high MPG hybrids can fill (Prius c, Prius v and the C-Max) (good thing I am not in ENG101). We are adding plug in hybrids (PIP, new Fusion and C-Max) as well as the extended range Volt. These new plug in hybrids will fill a big gap until battery technology can catch up to gasoline or lord forbid H2 dreams come true.

  • Otto

    For me, I like the EV. My round trip to work is 50 miles. With 5 years of roadside assitance, i will get the bugs worked out. The airport is 36 mile and you can park fpor free and charge up. Charging after midnight I should be at $0.03 per mile. compared to $0.13 with a prius.

  • modern marvel fan

    I love my Volt. For the price, Focus EV will be a hard sell. Volt meets most people’s daily need and it drives very nicely. Sure, it only has 4 seat. But why buy a car for the 5% need (I would bet that most people don’t carry 5 people all the time)? I have multi cars in my family. Volt is my daily commute. The fact is that I just don’t have to watch the range in the Volt all that much. If it is out of electrons, then the gas will help me get to the destination. That alone is a nice feature. Also, all battery performance degrades over time. Volt (at its least) can still function as a great hybrid without a reliable battery. The same can’t be said for Fous EV/Leaf/Telsa…

  • DebraRedhead

    @modern marvel fan- your last point about the Volt still functioning is great point. I would assume resale value will hold much better because of this. Do you think the gas motor survive long if it is put into service full time rather than rarely?

  • Bill C

    Ford is not serious about electric cars $39,000 focus really the Focus market is for entry level buyers, it even looks like the gas powered focus

    If Ford was serious they would have made it the Lincoln electric with a cool body something like the Frisker

  • jayzz

    Generally speaking, I don’t think the world is ready yet for pure electric cars yet – look at sales figures

    Hybrids are still the best compromise and that too, I would be very cautious of buying generation “one” of any brand – especially those car companies with a “not so good” reputation in the reliability department

  • partment

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