Is the electric version of one of the class leaders just as good?I had a meeting in a different city during the week that was 40km one way and I decided to take my decade-old Honda Civic rather than to risk getting stranded.
You buy your groceries solely at Whole Foods; the three R’s have an almost sacred meaning to you; you can count Al Gore as one of your heroes; and now time has come for you to purchase a new vehicle. You have undoubtedly looked at hybrids, but your tech start-up neighbours have had a Toyota Prius for years and you would prefer to forego the California hipster image associated with that vehicle. Moreover, you don’t just want a car with low emissions, you want a car with zero emissions, so what options do you have? Currently in Canada there are a few vehicles that fit the bill; the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Smart ForTwo electric (spring 2013 release), Ford Focus Electric, and the Tesla Model S, to name a few. This week we find out if the Ford Focus Electric is worthy of all the hype.
The styling is one the strong points of the car as it looks almost identical to its internal combustion-powered sibling. For what it’s worth, Ford’s marketing team are pushing the styling very hard as they are trying to attract customers that would like an electric powertrain but would prefer not to be seen in a 3000-pound duck. The car comes equipped with the same Aston Martin look-alike front grill found on the new Ford Fusion, mated to very nice 17-inch wheels.
The inside is also just more of what you have seen before on a regular Focus. Because of the price of this car, the Focus Electric comes very well-equipped with all the typical Ford tech options. I will also commend Ford on an intelligently-designed “Energy Coach” system that helps you drive economically. We had the optional leather bucket seats that I would strongly recommend as they look spectacular and truly do transform the interior. The only negative in the interior is the trunk space, which has now almost disappeared due to do the storage of the 23 kWh capacity liquid cooled lithium-ion battery pack. For those keeping score, that is 1 kWh less than the Nissan Leaf.
The performance is quite surprising; the car produces 143 hp and 184 lb.-ft of torque; all of which is available as soon as your foot touches the big pedal. However I wasn’t fond of the brakes on the vehicle as I found them choppy under even moderate brake application. This problem can most likely find its roots in the fact the brakes are designed to harness lost energy back into the battery pack. On the note of the battery pack, it comes with a 10 year warranty from Ford so you can sleep well at night.
Battery performance however is another story and will continue to be the Achilles’ heel of most fully-electric vehicles. The vehicle computer shows a range of just over 120km on a full charge, which is acceptable on some level. Shockingly though, as soon as climate control is turned on, this range instantaneously drops to around 80km, a ridiculous 33% drop! Unfortunately in Canada, climate control is a necessity in the winter and that’s where it starts to go downhill for this car. The cold weather problems do not stop there, I experienced one cold morning where after engaging into reverse, even after planting my foot flat onto the floor, the car refused to move at all. Having a range limitation is terrible; I had a meeting in a different city during the week that was 40km one way and I decided to take my decade-old Honda Civic rather than to risk getting stranded. It should be noted however that this extreme range problem is an electric car problem (Tesla excluded) and not just a Ford Focus problem. In Ford’s defense, they seem to have done a fairly good job at estimating driving range, as I could get very close to the estimated numbers.
Charging time can also be a painful experience, to fully charge an empty battery it will take approximately 20 hours using a 120V outlet, which is on par with the Nissan Leaf. But, if you are willing to spend approximately an extra $1500.00 to install a 240V charging station at your home, the car can be fully charged within three to four hours. The cost to charge your vehicle will be a much more pleasant experience, as Ford estimates it will cost between $2 and $3 to fully recharge a battery based on a nationwide average cost of $0.12/kWh.
Lastly, the price, hold your breath folks. As of December 16, Ford’s online configurator shows a price of $46,193 without the $1000 leather bucket seats that I recommended earlier on. That is approximately $20000 more than a loaded top of the line Ford Focus Titanium. Just attempting to do the math for how many kilometres one would need to drive this car before he/she recuperated the price of gas is an utter waste of time. But not all the news is negative, Ford dealers are well known to give superb discounts and the Government of Ontario will also help you out with an $8500 purchase incentive. Taking all the savings into consideration, prospective purchasers should be prepared to spend in the neighbourhood of $35000 to buy this vehicle.
Though I love the regular Ford Focus and personally do believe it is amongst the top of its class, I just can’t bring myself to recommend this vehicle to anyone. The combination of the high price and very limited range is just too strong of a deterrent for me. For those of you who insist on buying electric, I would wait and at least test drive the 2013 Smart ForTwo electric, which promises better range and a much cheaper sticker price. Electric vehicles might be the way of the future, but this 2013 Ford Focus Electric just isn’t the future I want.
2013 Ford Focus Electric Gallery