LAS VEGAS - Ford on Friday unveiled a new Ford Focus Electric, raising the stakes in the battle between volume carmakers to get traction in the fledgling electric-vehicle market.
It is Ford’s first fully electric vehicle. The US-based automaker wants to deliver five electric models to customers in North America and Europe by 2013.
Unveiling the Focus Electric at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) here, Ford CEO Alan Mulally spoke of offering “an entirely new user experience, a new lifestyle, an electrified lifestyle.” He said the Focus Electric is “a great step forward” for the company and part of a comprehensive plan to roll out a broad range of affordable fuel-efficient vehicles in coming years.
Ford’s Focus Electric, which will be in dealer showrooms in late 2011, will compete with the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, both already on the market, and with a range of other competitors slated for launches in the next 12 to 24 months.
But Ford officials expressed confidence that the Focus will be a strong competitor. The company claims better fuel efficiency than the Volt and faster recharging times than the Nissan Leaf. And the model will be available with a version of the MyFord Touch driver connect technology especially adapted for electric customers.
“Focus Electric is the flagship of our new family of electrified vehicles, showcasing our commitment to offer consumers choice when it comes to fuel-efficient or fuel-free vehicles,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president for Global Product Development.
Kuzak, who also spoke at the CES said the model’s smart driver information technologies “will transform the way customers think about energy usage and their transportation needs.”
Ford said that much of the Focus Electric’s steering, handling and braking feel is shared with the fuel-powered Focus models upon which it is based.
The car offers a host of standard safety and security features including six airbags and electronic traction control, along with hands-free SYNC telephone connectivity and the electric version of MyFord Touch.
Because the electric Focus uses technology from the existing models, most premium infotainment features from those models will be available to customers. “They can get SYNC technology, they can get premium audio systems, they can get My Ford Touch technology," said Sharif Marakby, director of Ford’s electrification programs and engineering.
Ford officials cited their battery recharging technology as particularly competitive. The Focus Electric comes with a 120-volt convenience cord that charges from a regular wall socket.But the company recommends an optional but faster 240 voltwall-mounted charging station.
Focus Electric owners will be provided with a suite of driver information systems that will help them manage the recharging process, provides them with the most eco-friendly routes onboard and lets them monitor remaining battery capacity.
The Focus Electric will be powered by a lithium-ion battery system engineered by Ford in cooperation with Korean supplier LG Chem. The battery system uses heated and cooled liquid to help maximize battery life and fuel-free driving range.
- By Arjen Bongard