2013 Ford Focus Electric
Base price: $39,995
As tested: $39,995
MPG: 110 city/99 highway/105 combined (mpg equivalent)
- Never buy gasoline again
- Subdued styling
- Drives like a conventional Ford Focus
- Range anxiety
- Price tag
- Battery pack chews up valuable cargo space
By Jim Prueter
For some reason, manufacturers seem to fall into two different camps: those who make electric cars odd looking (Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i-MiEV), and those who give them a more subtle appearance (Ford Focus). Spotting a new Ford Focus Electric out of the masses isn’t easy.
Ford distinguishes its electric Focus from the standard model with a really sharp-looking grille that’s an exact duplicate of the snout on the new Ford Fusion. Except, it isn’t really a grille at all, because there isn’t a radiator or engine up front, just an electric motor. So what you get is a façade, a superficial grille that makes this Focus look like a gasoline-powered model.
And there are a couple of other ways to recognize the electric version: the front fender’s round charger port door and the “ELECTRIC” emblem on both front doors and the rear hatch.
The Focus EV is available only as a five-seat, five-door hatchback powered by a 107-kilowatt electric motor that translates into 143 horsepower with 184 foot-pounds of torque — a big number for a car this size. The transmission is a one-speed conversion gearbox with no shifting, so it acts like an automatic.
But one of the more important features in any electric vehicle is the size of the battery. In the case of the Focus, it’s a 23-kilowatt unit that’s about the same size as the one used in the Nissan Leaf. But while Nissan buries its battery in the chassis of the vehicle, Focus puts it in the rear cargo area, which takes up almost half the room in the rear hatch. This is an unfortunate move, since additional cargo space is typically the reason people buy a hatchback.
Thanks to the torque, we found the EV to have plenty of punch from a dead stop, even though it weighs some 700 pounds more than the similar gasoline-powered Focus.
Like all electric vehicles, the Focus EV is challenged by an impairment known as range anxiety. It is a serious impediment that keeps you from simply enjoying being on the road. A fully charged Focus EV delivers about 76 miles of roaming range, and you’ll find yourself constantly checking the range indicator as if you were running out of fuel in a gas burner. And the range on the indicator drops much faster than one mile for each one driven.
Though, the relative time and cost to recharge is appealing. Ford says it takes three to four hours on a level 2 charger — plugs into a 240-volt outlet like the one used by your clothes dryer. A Nissan Leaf takes twice as long. Most charging will be “top off,” as opposed to fully depleted, and will take much less time. The cost of that charge is about $2.75 using an average utility rate.
The Focus EV starts at $39,995, or $32,495 if you qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit. Overall, there is much to like here, especially the ability to ignore gasoline prices. But like all EVs, its high purchase price and range anxiety limit its allure.