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USA: Morris residents take electric cars for spin

FLORHAM PARK — Slipping behind the wheel for a test drive, Gino Abbate III of Morristown wondered how the 2012 Ford Focus Electric would handle.

Available since May, the strictly battery-powered, zero-emission car uses no gas, oil or even transmission fluid.

About eight minutes later, Abbate returned pleasantly surprised.

“You didn’t miss the feeling and power of a gas engine,” he said. “It was all there.”

But there was one sticking point for the Fairleigh Dickinson University MBA graduate student: the approximate 76-mile maximum driving distance before the next battery-charging session would be necessary.

“I like to go on weekend trips, so I would definitely have to have a second gas car,” he explained.

FDU’s Florham Park campus, in conjunction with the New Jersey Green Association, played host last week to Ford Motor Co.’s “Go Further Tour” — a traveling campaign through which the giant automaker hopes to acquaint drivers with its electric and hybrid vehicles.

The Focus Electric carries a sticker price of $39,200, offset somewhat by a $7,500 federal tax rebate for purchasing a no-emission vehicle and various state tax incentives.

An additional $1,500 buys the recommended Leviton 240-volt “home charging station,” a unit resembling a cross between a bathroom scale and wireless router that plugs into a conventional wall outlet.

The option is essential if drivers want to fully charge the car’s lithium-ion battery within four hours, as opposed to needing upward of 20 hours with the 120-volt recharging cord that comes as standard equipment, said Ahmed Shah, one of Ford’s product specialists.

Consumers can expect to pay between $4 and $5 per charge on their home electric bills, Shah said.

There was a touch of gleeful irony in the charging station display, in which the Leviton charger and its wrap-around, 18-foot cable were mounted to a cutout shaped like a dreaded gas pump — the very device Focus Electric drivers will never need.
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