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Ford unveils its electric car - the Focus

ford_focus_bev_street.top.jpgThe Ford Focus Electric will go on sale in late 2011. By Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Ford unveiled the Focus Electric at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Friday promising an electric car that's fun to drive.

Ford boasts that its electric car is "a dynamic driver's car." It will have a top speed of 84 miles per hour and the suspension, steering and brakes will be shared with the gasoline-powered car.

The car's expected range will be 100 miles on a single charge.

The car will go on sale late this year but, even though Ford is still among the first major automakers to have an electric car, it may have missed much of the buzz that the Nissan Leaf and General Motors' Chevrolet Volt have generated.

"The Leaf was the first, after that, if you're the second or the fifth or the 10th, who really cares?" said Bill Visnic, a senior editor for the automotive Web site Edmunds.com.

Ford executives, on the other hand, insist they aren't worried about others stealing the plug-in car limelight.

"This is all about diversification of fuel," Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of global electrification said. "Not for one year or two years, but for the next millennium."

Based on the next-generation Ford Focus compact car -- the gasoline version will go on sale soon -- the Focus electric can be fully charged in about three hours from a 240-volt charging station, that's about twice as fast as a Nissan Leaf. Charging stations will be sold at Best Buy and installed by Geek Squad.

"We're very excited about the potential of Focus Electric in the marketplace," Gioia said in a statement. "With so many of us accustomed to recharging mobile electronics on a daily basis, we're confident our customers will take to the vehicle recharging process just as easily, because that's exactly what it is -- easy."

To help drivers get the most range out of their cars, the Focus electric will use a display similar the growing vines that appear in displays around the gauge cluster in the Ford Fusion Hybrid. In the Focus Electric, however, drivers will see blue butterflies instead of sprouting leaves. More butterflies means more electric range.

For a more straightforward view of available driving range, the car's center navigation display will also show how far the car can be driven.

The navigation system can also provide an "eco-route" to a chosen destination, one that maximizes the car's efficiency.

The car will also come with a mobile app that will allow drivers to remotely check the battery charge, be alerted when charging is finished and start the car while it's plugged in so that it can be heated or cooled.

While the Focus electric car hits the market about a year after plug-in cars from General Motors and Nissan, Ford does already have one electric vehicle on the market -- a plug-in version of the Transit Connect commercial delivery van.

In addition to the Focus electric, Ford also plans a plug-in hybrid vehicle -- a car that runs on both gasoline and electricity -- available some time in 2012.

As more electric cars begin coming the market, Visnic said, consumers will begin seeing automakers attempt to distinguish their products from the others as Ford is doing by pointing the "fun-to-drive" qualities in the Focus Electric.

Also, while Nissan is a mainstream automaker, Ford is even more mainstream with even more market visibility, said Visnic.

"That does rise it up a notch more, maybe, than the Nissan Leaf," he said. To top of page

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