First Drive: Ford Focus BEV
Maybe that is not the best news for Ford as it prepares to launch the Focus BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) in Europe early next year, when production starts at Ford’s Saarlouis plant in Germany alongside the other Focus models. The car is already in production at Ford’s Wayne Assembly Plant in Michigan in the US, and the two plants will be the only ones worldwide to build the electric Focus.
As part of the One Ford strategy there is no saloon version of the car, so both North American and European Focus BEVs are based on the five-door hatchback. That doesn’t seem like much of a problem for the conventionally powered models, but the BEV’s 23kWh lithium-ion battery pack, sourced from LG Chem, is located under the boot floor, where the car’s fuel tank is normally positioned and behind the seat too, taking up space in the boot and removing the flat loading floor with rear seats folded. It’s less than ideal, but perhaps the inevitable trade off from converting an existing hatchback model to electric drive.
Externally, our left-hand-drive, US-sourced model comes with the US trapezoidal front grille. Since the recently revealed Fiesta facelift incorporates similar frontal treatment and the BEV production run is likely to be small, European customers can expect the US-style nose to be a feature of the Focus BEV. If the Focus facelift in a year or two adopts similar design, it could bring the same front end to the whole European Focus range.
Conscious of the range anxiety discussion, Ford has engineered the Focus BEV for 6.6kW charging, which offers the potential for re-charging in around 3.5 hours. This should be possible via most street and industrial charging points, while customers who have the right home charging installation should also be able to take advantage of the faster charging.
Like any other electric vehicle, the Focus BEV could not be much simpler to drive, without the need for a conventional gearbox. The car is fitted with an automatic-style gear selector to select the drive mode, and then it’s a matter of pressing the accelerator pedal to move off and the brake to stop. Performance is brisk. The car pulls away smartly and we cruised on a section of dual carriageway at 70mph very comfortably, although cruising at such speeds will shorten the range considerably.
Driving the car around Oxford in the UK, the car rode and handled with the poise we have come to expect from the Focus despite the poor quality road surfaces. The regenerative braking is not too pronounced, while careful planning ahead means that it is possible to avoid using the conventional brakes in Stop/Start traffic, where the car is at its best.
Ford has yet to publish a price for the car, but the Nissan LEAF’s price – around £30,000, without tax concessions, must offer a good guide.
Ford’s first BEV is no more challenging to drive than a conventional automatic Focus, and the 3.5 hour re-charging potential means longer distance electric driving is much more of a reality for electric cars.
Segment: Lower medium
Type: Battery electric vehicle
Electric range: 100 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 0g/km
Charging port: Type 2