Top Gear: Ford Focus EV

Sunday, July 22, 20120 comments

Nissan's electric hatch, the Leaf, is a ground-up design. Ford's, the Focus Electric, is obviously an adapted Focus. This gives the Leaf crucial advantages in low drag and weight, as well as a bigger battery. Yet the Focus will still get a little further on a charge, and uses slightly less electricity to do it. So the Ford has an efficient battery and top-drawer electronics to convert charge into motion.

The Focus can even recharge itself in just three and a half hours off a 240-volt socket (half the Leaf's time at the same voltage), but unfortunately to do it you'll be using 32amps, which is far more than most of the UK's public charge points - or a home socket - can deliver.

And the Focus's real-world range, even if a bit further than a Leaf's, is still only 75 real-world miles. As with all EVs, range collapses in cold weather. This isn't because the battery fails, but because it takes about a quarter of its energy to heat the cabin. That's why the car has a timer, so it'll warm itself off the mains umbilical cord before you unplug and drive off.

So you still have to use the Focus, like any other EV, as a rather expensive commuter car. It's good at carrying people, but the battery eats up bootspace, handing one advantage to the purpose-packaged Leaf. For long trips, use your household's other car - the one with an actual engine.

But, while it lasts, the Focus Electric is pleasant. Acceleration at town and suburban speeds is smooth and really addictively eager. Which is a problem, because if you do become addicted to accelerating, your range will soon be pooped. Same with going fast on the motorway. If you use the outside lane, you'll soon be on the hard shoulder.

Anyway, it's an enjoyable car even when you're not caning it. Everything's eerily quiet, with no whining or grinding, and little of the road noise that you'd expect to hear above the non-existent engine. The battery mass helps smooth the ride, too.

To distract you from the fact you're not racing around, there's loads of dashboard info to help in the game of eking out charge. Well, if you want to get somewhere, it's not a game at all.

Electric motor, 107kW equals 141bhp, 188lb ft, approx 120-mile range, 0g/km tailpipe CO2, 0-62 approx 10sec, 84mph, 1645kg
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