2012 Further with Ford: Focus Electric

The new Ford Focus Electric is a step in the right direction, but EVs haven't arrived yet.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

If I have any regular readers, I will need each of them to have a seat and take a deep breath. I’m about to speak highly of an electric car.

While I’m fully aware that I’ve had little good to say about most hybrids and electric vehicles in the past – with the notable exceptions of the Lexus 200h and the new Toyota C – I did a few track laps in a brand new 2013 Ford Focus Electric at the Ford Testing Facility during the recent Further with Ford technology conference in Dearborn, Mich. (I apologize for the overload of “Fords” in that last sentence.)

After playing some tournament golf in France a few weeks ago, I noted to my playing partner that the golf cart we were using to save our golf spikes some wear and tear excited me more than a majority of the hybrids and electrics I’d driven in the last couple of years. It didn’t generate much of a laugh from the environmentalist European journalist beside me, but it was the truth.

So, I almost passed on the chance to test drive the Focus Electric during the track day. I’d been bombarded with waves of hot evangelical environment testifyin’ the previous day, and that was more than enough. Like the greenhouse emissions they obviously fear above everything else, the gas that spews from preachy greenies’ mouths tends to linger in the atmosphere far too long. When I was presented with a chance to drive the Focus Electric at speed, I looked for a way to decline gracefully.

It became an, “Oh, what the hell, why not?” moment. You only live once – even in potentially boring electro-mobiles. So I hopped in with Le’Aura Luciano – a driving partner and fellow automotive journalist from New York City. We did a few laps around one of Ford’s shorter, road-simulation test tracks.

At $39,200, the new Ford Focus Electric packs one of the most expensive batteries in use by major automakers today. It is not a hybrid or any sort of gas-assisted electric vehicle. It’s entirely  motorized by Ma Edison.

Thinking I was being very ironic and clever, when I got the green flag from the track steward, I stood on the accelerator as hard as I possibly could – promising a burnout. Of course, that’s impossible with the gas-powered Focus, let along the electron-driven model.

But, I stayed on that accelerator as I aggressively took some corners – and unearthed some tire squeal. I never got that noise out of a Nissan Leaf. It cornered well, and it held all of the bells and whistles you’d find in a standard Ford Focus. In short, I enjoyed the ride.

Of course, as with any electric car, the snag is range. Ford lists the Focus Electric’s range at 76 miles. That makes the Focus Electric like every other electric vehicle – essentially a short trip, urban commuter ride.

So, at then of those 72, you have to plug the car into either a120 or 240 volt outlet. Then, 18-20 hours later, you have a car again. That means you’ll need to own another car or take public transport – which defeats the purpose of having an electric vehicle as your primary transportation.

That’s a problem every car company – not just Ford – are dealing with moving forward. According to the carmaker, you can buy a “fast charger” to juice the car in under four hours.

Obviously, we haven’t licked this EV problem entirely yet. But, the Ford Focus Electric looks to be a step in the right direction.