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May 16, 2012

Plugging into the Focus

Ford Focus May 2012

Last week, I had fun test-driving the Ford Focus Electric, which goes on sale this month in California, New York, and New Jersey -- and in other markets later this year.  Like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the other full battery electric vehicles I’ve had the chance to ride, it had a smooth and quiet feel with powerful pick-up. One of the exciting benefits of the Focus plug-in is its shorter charging time.  It takes just over three hours to charge from empty using a level-two charger, and it travels up to 100 miles per charge.

Consumers will also benefit from the plug-in Focus' 10 year battery warranty, longer than the eight-year battery warranty offered by other manufacturers. The base price tag, at $39,200, is more expensive than the Leaf and the i-MiEV and similar to the Chevy Volt, but the $7,500 federal tax credit is available for all models.

What fascinated me most about the plug-in Focus was what was possible with the MyFord Mobile app. Not only does it allow you to heat or cool the vehicle before you get inside it  -- conserving your state of charge -- but it will also show you directions to your destination through your vehicle navigation program and let you know what charging stations are available along the way. Additionally, it will tell you how you can save emissions and/or money by charging your vehicle at off-peak times.

Mike Tinskey, Ford’s Associate Director of Vehicle Electrification & Infrastructure, spoke at last week’s Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference in Detroit where I moderated a workshop panel on Building the Electric Vehicle Industry through Manufacturing, Infrastructure, and Incentive Policies. Tinskey said that 16 of the 19 launch markets for the plug-in Focus have available “time of use” electricity rates that allow for cheaper, more efficient off-peak charging. He also described the 2.5 kW solar EV charging system through a partnership with Sun Power available to Ford’s plug-in customers.

2012 panel

Tom Bowes, Assistant Director of the Detroit Electrical Industry Training Center, described on our panel how many electricians are now taking advantage of training programs where they are learning to install EV charging units –both at EV drivers’ homes and in public settings.

Our other panelist was the Ecology Center's Charles Griffith who touted the 38,067 workers in 97 Michigan auto-related facilities and the fact that many of the newest jobs focus on advanced vehicle technologies. He also spoke about Built by Michigan, a coalition advocating for federal and Michigan EV incentives and programs that will give a boost to EV purchasing, manufacturing, jobs, and charging.

While Michigan is the U.S. capital of vehicle manufacturing, there are at least 19 states where vehicle and parts manufacturing is taking place, thanks in part to stimulus funding. To achieve the jobs, emissions, and oil savings we need, EVs like the Focus Electric need to shift into the fast lane. 

-- Gina Colon-Newfield, Sierra Club's Senior Campaign Representative for Electric Vehicles/images by Ann Mesnikoff. Top: Gina Colon-Newfield and Ford's Brian Petersen; bottom: Tom Bowes, Gina, Charles Griffith, and Mike Tinskey.

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