By Phil Covington
Ford is introducing a new range of electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles for 2012, which the company says will mean a third of their vehicle lines will feature a model with 40 miles-per-gallon, or more, next year.
A 100% electric version of the latest generation Ford Focus, will initially go on sale in California , New York and New Jersey, with subsequent expansion into a total of 19 U.S. launch markets. The obvious competition for the Focus Electric will be the Nissan Leaf, as well as the forthcoming Mitsubishi MiEV, both of which are also 100% electric vehicles, while Ford’s new hybrids are aiming at the new and larger member of the Toyota Prius family; the Prius V.
With these new vehicles, Ford is keen to promote a number of advantages their cars will bring to prospective buyers.
Ford claims the Focus Electric will achieve the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon (mpge), which they state is the first five-passenger vehicle to achieve this; though this figure is lower than the smaller Mitsubishi MiEV, which is rated at 112 mpge.
What potential Focus Electric owners should find appealing is the claim that when plugged into a 240 volt outlet, the Focus can be charged in half the time of the Nissan Leaf; translating to a full recharge time of just 3 hours. This, Ford claims, will allow drivers to extend their daily driving range, since an hour of charging will yield a 30 miles range. Notably, however, Ford doesn’t offer total driving range figures for the Focus Electric, but since it’s 23 kWh lithium-ion battery is roughly the same size as the Leaf’s – a comparable total range per charge might be expected.
Unlike EVs from the competition, Ford is not using a dedicated vehicle platform; instead the Focus Electric shares the body and steering of the conventional gasoline and diesel versions of the car. This will be interesting from a marketing standpoint, as drivers wanting to make a statement that they are driving an electric vehicle, will instead, blend in while driving this car – not a bad thing in my opinion.
The Focus will go on sale at $39,200 which after the $7,500 federal incentive will bring the price down to $31,700; pricier than both the Leaf and the MiEV.
Ford’s hybrid and plug-in hybrid offerings come in the form of the C-Max and the C-Max Energi respectively. As with the Focus, the C-Max platform is shared with conventionally powered variants of the vehicle already on sale in Europe. Ford positions the C-Max as a compact multi-activity vehicle (MAV); presumably, a designation that denotes the car is neither an SUV nor a people carrier – but instead, something smaller that offers similar utility.
As hybrids, both vehicles use a combination of a gasoline engine and electric motor in what Ford describes as their next-generation “power-split hybrid technology.” Both incorporate a smaller and lighter weight battery than Ford’s previous hybrid vehicles and as with the Focus, the C-max uses lithium-ion type batteries. These new-generation power-trains will allow the gasoline engines to run less than with previous Ford hybrids.
Ford expects the C-Max hybrid will better the fuel economy of the Prius V, while the C-Max Energi plug-in, should deliver better mpge than the forthcoming Prius plug-in. That said, unlike the Focus electric, Ford does not offer a miles-per-gallon equivalent figure for the Energi, though they are prepared to offer a total range; in excess of 500 miles using both battery and gasoline.
The hybrid transmission incorporated into both C-Max vehicles is the first that has been designed and built by the company, while production will at the Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The batteries will also be assembled in the same plant, which is good news for domestic manufacturing, and when the C-Max hybrids launch, Ford will be the largest maker of hybrid transmissions in North America.
It is great to see Ford introducing appealing and practical fuel efficient vehicles in the USA based on their global-car platforms. Although, having just spent a week driving the excellent Ford Focus diesel in the UK, where 500 miles per tank and around 42 mpg are easily achievable, the diesel would have been a compelling alternative to round out the line-up of fuel efficient vehicles.