Slowly but surely all the major manufacturers are rolling out their EV (electric vehicle) models, spurred by the requirement to deliver evidence of forward thinking and the need to meet emission targets set up by various governments. The latest is the mighty Ford, with the launch of the Ford Focus EV, which we recently spent some time with as part of a longer term evaluation.
The Focus EV offers no surprises from a styling point of view, since it is clearly a revamped standard Focus with an electric drivetrain and controls inserted at source. The result is a familiar shape and driving experience, allied with the silky smoothness which is the hallmarks of EV travel.
As you would expect from one of the world’s most popular cars, the Focus EV is roomy, predictable and fully equipped, although the big surprise is the fact that the cargo space of the car is significantly impaired by the addition of the chunky batteries needed to power the vehicle. It’s perhaps evidence of the problems with making a conversion rather than designing from scratch for electric as many other manufacturers are doing.
Despite this rather strange result, the drop down seats and capacious hatch still allow for a fairly generous load to be carried as needed, but if you’re expecting traditional Focus loads, you’ll be a tad disappointed.
There’s plenty of leg room fore and aft, and the driving position and controls are as well thought out as you’d expect from this motorway veteran, so in that respect there’s absolutely no compromise for this popular family car.
One thing that is immediately apparent when you step inside the new Focus EV is how similar it is to the original ICE models. There’s none of that exotic large center LCD screens, just a fairly simple console with a satellite navigation and ICE system embedded. There’s still a fair number of buttons to dazzle the eye and numb the brain, but you can happily ignore many of them if you just want to travel and listen to some sounds.
Take a look at the video below to get an idea of the vehicle’s ride and performance, including an ad hoc trip to the boundaries of the battery range to see how it coped.
As with many of the current EVs, starting up is a matter of pushing the big friendly button next to the wheel, and waiting for the boot up sequence to finish. After which you’ll hear the silence that tells you nothing. Eerie is not the word. But there’s a tiny icon which indicates you’re ready to drive, so press the throttle and you’re away, smooth as a Bentley in Monte Carlo.
In front of you are the typical electric instruments, including the all important battery range gauge and a dial which quite frankly we couldn’t understand at all. It seemed to have something to do with the brake regeneration system (the extreme version of which is triggered by selecting Low or L on the gear selector), but we could never work out how it actually worked or what the figures meant.
The vehicle offers probably one of the most solid feeling drives of any EV we’ve tested so far, with the size and weight of the Focus delivering a big car feel at all speeds. There’s a hint of wind and road noise at speed, but it really is a very smooth drive all round. The only thing we found was a slight tendency for the front wheels to skip a little under harsh acceleration as the tyres struggle to keep the rubber on the tarmac with all that torque, but it’s easily controlled for with a slightly more forgiving right foot.
The electric motor is rated at 143 BHP, and with a 0-60mph time of just 11.4 seconds, this is no sluggard off the lights. The Focus EV comes with the current typical 100 miles rated battery range, and in practice (i.e. in winter temperatures) this is more likely to be around 80 miles off a full charge. This means that again you need to plan your trips if they’re going to be any more than school run or shopping lengths.
We found that the battery regeneration from the Low drive setting really could deliver a significant battery top up under the right circumstances. On our trip to an edge of town airport we managed to grab at least 10 miles back from a particularly long downhill stretch on the motorway, which was a welcome addition to compensate for the use of the air conditioning to keep the car warm.
The Ford Focus EV has all the comfort and familiarity you’d expect from a conversion like this, and this forms a great part of its appeal. There’s nothing strange or out of place (apart from a lump in the rear compartment) to make people nervous about driving an electric vehicle. Even the gear selector is reassuringly normal, and the fact that the company has left the Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, Low motif in place adds to the comfortable feeling.
But there’s no mistaking its electric nature when you get going, the silent swift ride is as lush as a soft whisper of butterflies on a summer porch, but poetic license apart, it’s a great ride and one which makes you wonder why all cars aren’t made like this yet. Overall a very credible first effort from the Ford stable, and we’re keen to see where they go next with their EV models.
Price: £28,500 (after government grant)
107 kW electric motor
23 kWh liquid-cooled, lithium-ion battery
1-speed automatic transmission
Full regenerative braking
Top Speed – 84 mph
Range – up to 100 miles
Ford Sync Emergency Assistance System