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 |  Jan 07 2011, 3:23 PM

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Amidst a sea of smart phones and 3D TVs, Ford has unveiled its new Focus Electric model at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Set to take on both the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, the Focus Electric is the first zero-emissions passenger car from the Blue Oval and follows the launch of the Transit Connect EV last year. Ford is promising to deliver three more EVs by 2013.

Slated to go on sale later this year, the Focus Electric uses a lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor to make 123-hp and 181 ft-lbs of torque, enabling a top speed of 84-mpg. Speed and acceleration have never been an issue with electric cars, but charge time and weight are. The Focus Electric is still heavy at nearly 3,700 lbs, but Ford has made impressive advances in charging, claiming that with a special 240-volt home setup, the Focus EV can be recharged in three to four hours – that’s half the time of the Nissan Leaf.

Ford has yet to announce an official range, but it does say the car will meet the needs of most Americans. That being said, expect it to have a total distance similar to that of the Leaf, with a 100 mile claimed range and something closer to 70 miles in real world driving.

Offered exclusively in hatchback form the electric Focus gets a slight redesign from the standard mode, with a new front end that looks lifted directly off an Aston Martin.

Inside there’s the new MyFord Touch system with 8-inch touch screen designed specifically for an electric car, with special info displayed including the battery charge level and distance to the next charging station. The built-in navigation system will even let the driver know if they can make the distance on the current level of charge, and even coach them on more efficient driving to help.

Owners can then bring the experience of owning a Focus Electric with them when they leave the car thanks to the MyFord Mobile app. Along with expected features like being able to check the state of charge from your smartphone it can also do some unique things: like let you know how much longer it needs to charge to reach a pre-set destination in the Nav system; find charging stations; and even let you pre-set charging times for off-peak utility hours. (Get more on the MyFord Mobile app here).

In addition to all this technology, the Focus Electric also includes standard features like six airbags, SYNC, 17-inch wheels, a push-button ignition, a 9-speaker audio system and traction control. The ‘compact’ size of the lithium-ion battery pack also means the Focus Electric retains some of the standard car’s functionality, with 60/40 folding rear seats. And in keeping with the car’s environmental theme, much of the interior uses recycled materials, including for the seat fabrics.

GALLERY: 2012 Ford Focus Electric

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GALLERY: MyFord Mobile

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 |  Jan 07 2011, 9:37 AM

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You might not find a crowd more receptive to electric cars than at the Consumer Electronics Show and so its no surprise that during his keynote address Audi CEO Rupert Stadler made his grand entrance behind the wheel of the company’s e-Tron Spyder.

Audi is continuing to keep the focus on its electric car efforts and while this is the very same car that debuted at the Paris Auto Show last September, the stunning new red paint helps for the Las Vegas audience. Oh, and let’s not forget that this e-Tron isn’t actually a zero-emissions vehicle, and is actually more of a hybrid using an internal combustion engine as well.

Under the hood twin-turbo TDI V6 makes 300-hp and 479 ft-lbs of torque with all of that power going to the rear wheels via a 7-speed DSG transmission. Also in use are two electric motors (one at each of the front wheels), that deliver a total of 88-hp and 260 ft-lbs of torque, allowing for an AWD machine that’s capable of a 0-62 mph time of 4.4 seconds.

GALLERY: Audi e-Tron Spyder

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 |  Jan 07 2011, 1:01 AM

Ahead of the debut of the Ford Focus Electric at the Consumer Electronic Show today, Ford has announced a new smartphone App designed to connect owners with the company’s new zero-emissions car.

Similar in many ways to GM’s Chevy Volt OnStar App, the MyFord Mobile app will let owners of the Focus Electric keep tabs on their car and interact with it. The new app will let owners check the EV’s state of charge, its estimated range at that charge point and even figure out how much longer it needs to charge to meet a specific distance. An additional feature will also let owners schedule charge times for when rates are lowest.

Working with MapQuest, the app can find charging stations and signal if the station is within the range of the car, even creating longer trips by stringing together charging stations along the way.

The MyFord Mobile app can also alert the owner if a charge has been interrupted or if the charge has reached a sufficient level in order to reach a set destination.

Added features include the ability to lock and unlock the doors, use a built-in GPS system to help you find the car and it can even use power off the grid to warm or cool the car’s interior so it’s ready when you are.

With all these convenience features, Ford is also looking to engage owners in the electric car experience, with the MyFord Mobile app letting them download vehicle performance and efficiency data. The vehicle will also grade the driver based on how efficiently the car is being driven, and even give awards that can then be shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The MyFord Mobile app will be available for Blackberry, Android and iPhone smartphones as well as any phone supporting HTML-5  or WAP 2.0. It can also be access from a secure website from your home computer.

From inside the car, the Focus EV will integrate the app through a MyFord Touch system that has been customized to the electric car experience.

GALLERY: MyFord Mobile App

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Official release after the jump:

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 |  Jan 05 2011, 7:57 AM

As a part of a larger plan to grow OnStar, General Motors has announced it will begin offering the service on non GM products. Originally designed as a value-added safety feature, OnStar has grown to include numerous convenience features as well, including Turn-by-Turn Navigation and even the ability to open a vehicle when you’ve locked your keys in it.

Starting this spring, OnStar’s Blue Button-equipped rear view mirror will be offered through Best Buy for $299 plus installation. Plans range in price from $18.95 a month to $199 a year.

“For years, thousands of drivers have asked us to get OnStar in vehicles that didn’t feature it as standard,” said Chris Preuss, OnStar president, announcing the new feature at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “With the retail product that we’ve introduced today they certainly can. This move in to the consumer electronics space represents the biggest development in our business model since introducing OnStar as standard across all GM products several years ago.  It represents a quantum leap forward in our plans to grow our business and provide a strong new revenue base for GM and OnStar from which we can further develop our core offerings in the factory-equipped market.”

Features available include turn-by-turn navigation though a live voice, stolen vehicle location, roadside assistance, Bluetooth hands-free calling, a link to emergency services though the red button and, of course, OnStar’s best-known feature, Automatic Crash Response, that automatically calls an OnStar advisor if a crash is detected and can even send emergency services if no on in the car responds.

The retail OnStar service is not only available for new cars from other automakers, but also older models. GM says that the OnStar mirror will work on 99 percent of the 20 best selling non-GM vehicles solve over the last 10 years and has plans to further expand the product’s range.

Official release after the jump:

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 |  Jan 05 2011, 6:38 AM

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OnStar has teamed up with long-time partner Verizon to showcase just how much the in-car technology could be capable of in the near future. A list of several new ‘prototype technologies’ ranging from entertainment, to communications to safety, are on display for the first time in a custom Buick LaCrosse at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV.

Taking OnStar beyond the confines of 4-wheels, the proposed new features are possible thanks to Verizon’s 4G network, many of them including smart phone features.

Top among the features are Vehicle monitoring and Impact detection, with cameras mounted inside and outside the car, letting a driver see inside or around their car wherever it is parked, using a computer or a smart phone. The camera can even take a short video clip, which will be triggered automatically if the vehicle is bumped by another.

Bringing OnStar from the car to the home, GM is also showcasing a new feature that would allow you to view your home through security cameras, as well as control household functions like the temperature and lights.

Additional technologies being previewed include a navigation system than can provide real-time traffic camera images to help you avoid congested streets; an Electronic User’s Guide that can show owners how to operate and maintain their vehicle through videos; a Voice Portal that will let you connect to social web sites using the in-vehicle display; and finally a Video Chat service that uses Skype to enable video phone calls using that same in-dash screen.

GALLERY: OnStar Verizon 4G Prototype Features

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Official release and a video demo after the jump:

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