Photo: MSVG | Flickr
May 11 – After test-driving the soon-to-go-on-sale Ford Focus Electric at a promotional event downtown on Thursday, Matt Hrna was impressed with its quick acceleration. It has more pickup than the four-cylinder gasoline-powered car he now owns.Hrna could see himself owning an all-electric car someday, but he still plans to wait until such a vehicle has greater driving range than the Focus Electric’s 70 to 100 miles.
He probably won’t be one of the first to plunk down $39,200 for one of the Focus Electrics when they make their debut locally several weeks, or perhaps several months, from now.
Indeed, many consumers seem to be in a wait-and-see mode when it comes to moving away from gasoline engines. But companies such as Ford see electrification as a big part of their car-making future.
“It’s going to take time for people to take hold of electric cars,” said Donna Bell, Ford’s electric vehicle infrastructure manager, who attended Thursday’s event near City Hall. “But we believe it’s the right thing do for the environment and to help the country move from its dependence on fossil fuels.”
Bell noted that people who buy Focus Electrics also qualify for a substantial federal tax credit.
While the arrival of the electric version of the Focus probably won’t have a big effect on car market, it further shows that automakers will continue to give consumers more electric options.
A slow embrace
“Consumers have been relatively slow to embrace electric vehicles. We’ve seen that in the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf,” said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at IHS Automotive. Among the challenges, she said, is that vehicles with internal combustion engines are getting increasingly better mileage.
Consumers also have concerns with electric cars, Lindland said, over issues such as battery life and driving range. Besides, there aren’t many charging stations around.
“And if you don’t have a garage, you may not have a readily available place to plug in the vehicle,” Lindland said.
Ford is working with cities to identify solutions for multifamily complexes, Bell said.
A head start
“The Focus Electric will go head to head with the Leaf and will have an uphill battle, since the Leaf has had a big head start,” said Mike Omotoso, manager of global powertrain at LMC Automotive. The Leaf arrived in the U.S. in late 2010.
The Leaf sells for about $4,000 less than the Focus Electric, he noted.
“The Focus is a good first start for Ford,” Omotoso said, “but they only expect to sell about 5,000 units this year — about half of what Nissan is expecting with the Leaf.”
Another electric option is the Chevy Volt, which provides the benefits of an electric vehicle without the range limitations, Chevrolet spokesman Craig Eppling said. The Volt offers a total driving range of 379 miles.
For the first 35 miles, it can drive gas-free, he said, and when the Volt’s battery runs low, a gasoline-powered engine/generator engages to extend the driving range another 344 miles, Eppling said.
The Volt costs about the same as a Focus Electric.
Later this year, Ford will debut the Ford Fusion Energi and the small SUV Ford C-Max Energi. Both are plug-in hybrids that combine gasoline and electric technology.
Planet Ford in Spring is among the local dealerships that will sell the Focus Electric when it debuts. Shawn Burns, general manager, said Ford required the dealership to install two charging stations. He spent $15,000 on green renovations and plans more, he said.
Burns said he believes the Focus Electric will sell well. One customer, a NASA scientist, wants to buy the first one to arrive and then study it, he said.
Local computer analyst Richard Anderson also test drove the Focus Electric on Thursday and also found it to have more power than he expected.
“It was super quiet,” Anderson said. “It’s kind of weird — good weird.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.