By now, it should be pretty obvious that electric cars are here to stay. Not hybrids, but bespoke (love that word!) 100% battery-powered electric cars. Just look around; the roads seem to be full of Nissan Leafs, Kia Souls, various Teslas and so on. People are taking to battery power and, for conventional petroleum-fueled vehicles, the writing would seem to be on the wall.
I recently spent a week with an electric car – Ford’s Focus EV hatchback.
But first, a few particulars.
With a before-tax price of just under $35,000, the Focus EV is powered by a 107 kilowatt – 143 horsepower – permanent magnet electric motor that develops 185 foot-pounds of torque. With a purported range of some 185 kilometres, it has a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack and can be fully charged in five and a half hours with a 240-volt power source. It can also take a quick charge up to 80% capacity in about half an hour, and with a conventional 120-volt power source, it needs 30 hours to bring it up to full charge. These are fairly typical re-charge times.
Aside from its battery powered drivetrain, the Focus EV is pretty much the same vehicle as its gas-fuelled stablemates. It has essentially the same suspension and brakes, the same interior head and legroom, and the same exterior dimensions. Because of its battery pack and re-charge connection, it loses some cargo room….940 litres vs 1242 litres…. and has significantly less storage room in the hatchback area. Otherwise, no huge surprises.
A few observations:
– With over 140 horsepower and 185 foot-pounds of power on tap, the Focus EV is no slouch in the performance department. Like all electric cars, power delivery is instantaneous, with none of the “spooling up” that you get with internal combustion drivetrains. This gives it surprising takeoff snap and makes it an excellent urban car.
– Underway, this is one of the quietest cars you’ll ever drive. There is some tire hum on the freeway, but overall, as quiet as a luxury limo.
– Instrumentation is excellent, with an easy-to-read distance gauge front and centre. This lets you know at a glance how much range you have left and lets you decide whether or not you should take that long drive into the country.
– Range anxiety. This is a definite consideration. Ford says the Focus EV has maximum range of some 185 kilometres. You could probably stretch that out to 200 if you drove like a granny, kept your speed down, and used no accessories. But even so, when the gauge says 145 kilomtres of range left, for example, you should pay attention. You can’t exactly fill up at the local gas station if you use up all the juice, and you need to have a working knowledge of where all the recharging facilities are.
– Charging time is another thing to think about. Were you to own this vehicle, you would definitely need to get your hands on a quick charge set-up. Leaving the car plugged into house current overnight is fine, but sometimes, you need a quick charge and there’s no way around it. This, along with range anxiety is the Achilles heel of all EVs….yes, some have higher ranges – Tesla, for example – but battery technology is still the weakest link when it comes to alternate fuel sources. Until there is some kind of battery breakthrough, EVs are strictly city vehicles.
– My tester had a sticker price of $34,998, but there are various rebates available. In British Columbia, for eg, you can claim up to $12,000 in rebates, depending upon the circumstances….this makes the Focus EV, for example, actually affordable.
– I have come around when it comes to electric vehicles. I am still a diehard petrol-head, with several vintage cars stashed away, but I have grown to appreciate the simplicity and handiness of EVs.
Would I buy one? Not yet.
Manufacturer’s Site: Ford
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist Of The Year twice and is past president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).