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USA: Test Drive: 2012 Ford Focus Electric

Don’t believe what you’ve heard, ‘twas Ford that killed the electric car.
A century ago the Model T ushered in a new era of affordable motoring that offered literally limitless possibilities, and pushed the short-range electric cars of the day to the sidelines where they have remained until only recently.
Now, on the cusp of a new era of zero-emissions motoring, Ford is joining the fray and introducing the first battery-powered vehicle it has ever produced in house: the Focus Electric.
Based on the conventional five-door Focus, the Focus Electric has an electric motor driving the front wheels and a 23 kWh battery pack located behind and underneath the rear seats. Starting price is $39,995, but you can call it $32,495 after the $7,500 federal tax credit that the car qualifies for.
The battery pack, which itself contributes between $12,000 and $15,000 to that price, is climate controlled to keep it at optimum operating temperature at all times, and delivers an EPA-rated 76 miles per charge, 3 “mpc” more than the Focus’ main competitor, the Nissan Leaf.
Visual changes vis a vis the gas guzzling Focus are limited to a newly designed, but phony, radiator grille, some minor aerodynamic tweaks, a few “E-lectric” badges and a circular cover for the charging port on the left front fender. Plugged into a 110-volt outlet, a full charge takes up to 20 hours, but that drops to less than four hours when using a dedicated 240-volt charger that Ford will be happy to set you up with for $1,495.
Inside, the car is also largely standard-issue Focus, with only the big box in the cargo bay covering the battery pack an immediate hint that something is amiss, or aright, depending on your perspective.
Hit the start button and you’ll notice a few tweaks to the many LCD screens of the MyFord touch infotainment system that are specific to the battery-powered model. They offer a variety of ways to display how much juice you have left, and one screen that awards environmentally friendly driving with a growing rabble of butterflies that dissipates whenever you succumb to your lead foot.
Don’t worry, they don’t die, just fly away to greener pastures.
A traditional gear selector in the center console engages drive modes, and getting underway is as simple as slipping it into “D” and pressing your right foot down on the object formerly known as the gas pedal.
As you do, the car steps off smartly and smoothly with a disappointing absence of futuristic motor whine. The electric Focus is about 700 pounds heavier than the gasoline-powered version, but with more torque on tap, doesn’t feel it around town. Get closer to its artificially limited 84 mph top speed, however, and the left lane looks less and less inviting.
In any event, the ride is quite pleasant, with that extra bulk helping to smooth out the bumps and the lack of mechanical noise raising the overall refinement of what is already a near-premium compact car. I didn’t have the opportunity to go far enough to put the EPA rating to the test, but over the course of my brief test drive the car lost less range than the distance it covered, thanks in part to an extremely efficient regenerative braking system that uses the electric motor to recapture energy as the car slows down.



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