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Nov. 11, 2011

Focus Electric

by Carl Flatow

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The other day I got an email from Ford with the subject line,
“Get a closer look at the 2012 Focus Electric, then reserve yours today.”
As a strong believer that 2012 will be a watershed year for all-electric cars in America, I have to admit that I was excited that we would finally see Ford bring this car into the US market.

One of the links in that email led me to join a chat with Ford Focus Electric expert Chad D’Arcy, today. I looked forward to learning some new things, including, most of all, what mileage range per charge one could expect (range anxiety is real), as well as a date when they will be actually on the road.

It became uncomfortable pretty quickly. Right off the bat their web technology balked, over and over, when I tried to register on the “Ford Social” website that hosted the chat. I never did get to register, successfully. Then, sadly, the “Chat” felt like it was moving at about the rate that grass grows. I would submit a question and watch it disappear. (Thankfully, it let me submit questions as an unregistered guest.) Several minutes later, somebody else’s question would appear in the chat box and several more minutes later Chad would post a reply.

Although it at first seemed to me as if Chad was having to take time to look up the answers, I admit that it was more likely that Chad was busy picking through the many questions flowing in and, briefly, answering the softballs.

As Chad explained to Seth,
“…We’re receiving a lot of questions at the moment and will answer as many relevant questions in the time we have scheduled….”

My repeated questions about dates that cars would actually be in showrooms were, unfortunately, not “relevant” to their agenda. I find it hard to believe that a company the size of Ford doesn’t yet have a schedule that they can release to the public by this point in the process.

As for the range per charge, Chad replied to Marc,
“We anticipate being competitive in our EPA number. However, the daily use range we are targeting is between 70 and 100 miles, depending on driving conditions and customer usage.”

I’m having trouble parsing that out. Is a “daily use range” on a single charge? If so, why not say that? If I drive 40 miles to the office every day and charge the car while I’m working, then drive home where I plug it in again, is that a daily use?
I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

One area where the Focus may look good is in recharge time. As Chad wrote,
“With the Ford-recommended Leviton 240V home charging station, the full charging time is between 3 and 4 hours, which is half the time of the Nissan Leaf.” That does not tell me that Ford’s battery system is superior, it only implies that (third party) Leviton’s recharge station is.

A full recharge in 3-4 hours would easily let me do the above daily use (I think!?).

In a strange twist, Chad told Donnie from Tampa, Fl.,
“We are currently in Phase 1 of our launch and are going to 19 different market areas including Orlando. We will be going to additional markets in Phase 2 as we increase production and EV infrastructure continues to grow.”

To John L’s question about availability in Austin, Tx, here’s where it gets strange,

“Austin is one of the 19 markets in Phase 1 and Ford EV Certified dealers will be able to order in conjunction with the 2013 model year.”

I don’t know if it was a typo or not, but Chad, apparently, decided that my question about his jump to the 2013 model year in Phase 1 was not relevant, either — we got no explanation. Also not relevant enough was a question I asked as to whether Ford had any plans to bring down the cost of the Transit Connect Electric by electrifying it in it’s own factories. I would have thought that the Focus Electric expert could field that one, if he wanted to. (You can’t blame me for trying.)

All in all, I am left not feeling very good about Ford’s lack of enthusiasm for this market. They are certainly not looking to lead the pack in all-electric vehicles, based on what I see from where I sit… and this is a very frustrating way to chat.

About Carl Flatow

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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