|The Ford Focus Electric. Click to enlarge.|
Ford has begun the consumer roll-out of the Focus Electric, the battery-electric version of its new Focus; production of the vehicles began in December 2011 at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. (Earlier post.) The Focus Electric is Ford’s first electric drive light-duty passenger vehicle resulting from its strategy to electrify its entire high-volume platforms, rather than one-off specialty models.
Ford’s platform-based strategy—which anticipates that electric vehicle sales will grow over time—allows the company to adjust production to meet the inevitable fluctuations in demand as the market develops, noted Ford CEO Alan Mulally in a media briefing on and drive of the Focus Electric, held in conjunction with the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference in Laguna Niguel, California. The Focus Electric shares 78% of its parts with the conventional Focus, he noted, and comes off the same line.
The Focus Electric is powered by a 23 kWh Li-ion battery pack engineered by Ford using pouch cells from LG Chem; an advanced active liquid cooling and heating system preconditions and regulates the temperature. The pack comprises 430 cells; system peak power is 60 kW charge, 110 kW discharge, and specific power is 0.36 kW/kg. A 105 kW permanent magnetic electric traction motor delivers 188 lb-ft (255 N·m) of torque, and propels the car up to 84 mph (135 km/h).
The Focus Electric has been certified by the EPA to offer 105 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) combined, with 110 MPGe city and 99 MPGe on the highway. Combined cycle consumption is 32 kWh/100 miles. (Earlier post.) As a comparison, the Nissan LEAF is EPA-certified at 99 MPGe combined, 106 MPGe city and 92 MPGe highway. Consumption is 34 kWh/100 miles, combined cycle. However, the Focus Electric has a base curb weight of 3,624 lbs (1,644 kg)—600 lbs of that the battery pack. The Nissan Leaf (SL) weighs 3,385 lbs (1,535 kg); i.e., the Focus is a heavier car, albeit with a slightly smaller battery pack. (The Leaf uses a 24 kWh pack.)
An on-board 6.6 kW charger enables faster charging than the Leaf with its 3.3 kW charger—a benefit Ford is quick to highlight as potentially provided extended useful driving range during a day’s activities.
Ford spent a great deal of engineering effort to maximize the efficiency of the vehicle, as well as to deliver on its goal of making the Focus Electric a Focus that happens to have an electric powertrain, as opposed to a distinctive electric vehicle. The Focus Electric preserves as much of the handling, responsiveness and visual cues of the conventional Focus platform as possible.
|Optimizing the efficiency of the Focus Electric energy-consumers. Source: Chuck Gray. Click to enlarge.|
Ford took a holistic approach to optimizing the efficiency of the vehicle. In a presentation at the SAE Hybrid Vehicle Technologies symposium in February, Chuck Gray, Chief Engineer - Ford Electrification Engineering, said that to achieve the overall efficiency in the Focus Electric, the engineers identified every energy-consumer in the vehicle, broke them out and optimized them, then rationalized and critiqued the results for the final integrated vehicle design.
One of the elements contributing to the efficiency of the powertrain is the active thermal management of the battery pack, since power capability is a strong function of temperature and SOC, Gray noted.
|Focus Electric regen (top line) vs. a comparator. Source: Chuck Gray. Click to enlarge.|
Ford also developed improved regeneration capabilities for the Focus Electric, which will subsequently appear in other electrified vehicles in the Ford line-up.
Ford will ramp up Focus Electric retail production in the first half of 2012 for dealership availability in California, New York and New Jersey. By the end of 2012, Focus Electric will be available in 19 markets across the US.
Driving impressions. In the brief media drive, the Focus Electric displayed the zippiness and most of the handling of its conventionally-engined cousins; the Electric seemed to exhibit a slight wallow in sharper cornering, due to the 600 extra pounds in the rear from the battery pack, the effects of which have not been entirely offset by suspension tuning, etc.
The improved brake regeneration is extremely smooth and without any jarring of the occupants, but very efficient at 97%. (A display on one of the HMI displays provides feedback on the amount of available regen energy the driver has captured during a braking event; it is extremely gratifying—speaking entirely subjectively—to hit 100%.)
The Electric is also very quiet inside; Ford’s sound dampening efforts yielded a superior return.
Overall, Ford seems to have achieved its design goal—a battery-electric version of a mass-production platform that preserves the attributes of the model family while delivering well the benefits of an all-electric powertrain.
The Focus Electric carries an MSRP of $39,995, including destination charge. A federal income tax credit of $7,500 is available, as well as different state credits or rebates. (Earlier post.)