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Arguably electric cars are the future of the automotive industry. They promise smooth, quiet, pollution-free driving, but are they ready for primetime? If recent news is any indicator, the answer is a resounding “NO!”
Vehicles don’t try to race around the course as quickly as possible at the Montreal Green Rally.
The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf initiated a whole new movement in the auto industry. With the realization that an all-electric vehicle can be useful in everyday driving situations thanks to a large battery and more efficient fast charging technology, automakers are hopping on the electric vehicle bandwagon.
“Overall automakers want to be prepared,” says Devin Lindsay, an automotive powertrain analyst from IHS Automotive. “EVs are another tool for automakers to reach out to consumers” he says, mentioning that automakers are taking EVs seriously, rather than just putting a bunch of batteries and motors in an existing product.
It’s interesting to see how automakers make electric cars from the ground up to use only electric propulsion. For example Tesla and Cadillac are all making vehicles that will exclusively be used with an electric powertrain. Others are modifying their current successful vehicles to EVs. Lets take a look at the different EVs that will be arriving soon (or are already here), and learn a bit about the new technology behind it.
Those anxiously awaiting for Ford‘s first electric car will be pleased to know the American automaker hopes to have its EV available nationwide by the end of this year.
The Focus Electric will launch in California, New York, and New Jersey first and later this summer we will see it expand to 14 other states including Texas, Washington, and Virginia. According to Ford, there will be four phases of rollout in total with the third phase opening up another nine states including Hawaii, New Mexico, and Ohio. The final phase will bring the new EV to the rest of America to enjoy emissions-free driving.
Only select dealerships will have the Focus Electric on hand initially, as the American automaker requires each dealer to have at least two onsite charging stations as well as highly-specialized training, and one Focus Electric in stock at all times for demonstration purposes.
Priced from $39,200, the Focus Electric packs 143-hp with a 23 kWh lithium-ion battery and is currently America’s most fuel-efficient, five-passenger vehicle with a 110 MPGe rating in the city. Ford also likes to brag that its Focus can be charged in nearly half the time of its competitor, the Nissan Leaf.
“Ford is giving customers the power of choice for leading fuel economy regardless of what type of vehicle or powertrain technology they choose,” said Eric Kuehn, chief nameplate engineer, Focus Electric.
Ford Focus Electric Launch Map
On April 28, the Ford Focus electric will lead the pack as the Richmond 400 NASCAR race pace car — the first all electric car to do so.
NASCAR is clearly a sport where fuel economy isn’t a major concern, so Ford wants to educate the fans on how their EV technology works. ”Ford research shows the majority of Americans would consider buying an electric vehicle but do not yet understand the different technologies,” said Mark Fields, Ford president of The Americas.
Ford research shows that 67 percent of Ford race fans are likely to buy a Ford product, so debuting the Focus Electric at the track might help tip the scales in favor of hybrids among people who would be likely to write them off. The automaker can also claim the first hybrid to ever run as pace car at a NASCAR race, leading the pack in 2008.
The Focus electric is rated by the company at 110-mpge city and a 105-mpge combined rating, giving it a six mile-per-gallon equivalent advantage over the Nissan Leaf making it the most efficient all electric vehicle on the market.
Watch the Richmond 400 on April 28 to see the Ford Focus Electric pace car in action.
Ford recently announced the EPA fuel efficiency rating for its electric Focus model. Since it doesn’t burn any gasoline, the number isn’t in miles per gallon (MPG), but was given as miles per gallon gasoline equivalent, or MPGe. A new term to the automotive lexicon, it’s worth exploring exactly what MPGe means and how an MPGe rating is determined, especially as the number of electric cars and plug-in electric hybrids on the roads continues to increase.
Powered by a 23kWh-capacity lithium ion battery, the Focus Electric has its battery temperature managed by a liquid-cooling system and is 25 to 30 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter than a standard nickel-metal hydride battery. Ford claims that the Focus Electric can be charged in four hours while connected to a 240-volt source.
The front-wheel drive EV has an electric motor with 141-hp and can get around 110-MPGe in the city and 99-MPGe on the highway. The EPA estimates that the Focus Electric will get up to 76 miles on a single charge, giving it a slight three mile advantage over the Nissan Leaf.
But the technology in the Focus Electric is what has people buzzing. It will come equipped with an updated version of the MyFord Touch instrument cluster that is easily paired to the MyFord Mobile app that is available for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices. Users will be able to remotely view their vehicle’s current battery state, percentage of capacity, and estimated driving range. In addition, the app will allow owners to schedule charging for later or even tell the system to immediately charge. Best yet, there is a fail safe built into the app to inform owners if the car isn’t charging when it’s supposed to be or is unplugged for some strange reason.
Think that’s cool enough? There’s more. The app will lock and unlock the Focus Electric’s doors, start the climate control system, and awards achievements based on how green-friendly the driver drives.
Future owners of the Focus Electric that want a 240-volt charging station in their home will have to shell out an additional $1,499 and can order one through their local Best Buy store.
Ford began production on its Focus Electric back in December 2011 and will begin appearing at dealerships in the first half of 2012 in select states (California, New York, and New Jersey). The American automaker hopes to have it in 19 markets across the U.S. before the end of 2012. The $39,200 MSRP does not include the $795 destination charge.
American automaker Ford has committed to increasing the fuel economy of its U.S. model lineup 20-percent by the year 2020. The Blue Oval is hoping to achieve this through electric vehicles, hybrids, and improvements to gasoline-powered vehicles.
The recently released Ford Focus EV is rated at 105-MPGe, making it the country’s most efficient five-passenger vehicle. And even though electric vehicle sales will just be a small portion of Ford’s overall sales in the year 2020, the technology from them will help improve Ford’s hybrid and gasoline-powered models.
Currently Ford is adding an automatic start/stop system to its Fusion models later this year and is contemplating a new hybrid system. In addition, Ford has already announced that it plans on expanding its EcoBoost engine lineup. But powertrain improvements won’t be the only thing on Ford’s plate to make fuel efficiency improvements, the American automaker is also looking to shave weight across their models – up to 700 lbs in some.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
“Ford is giving customers the power of choice for leading fuel economy regardless of what type of vehicle or powertrain technology they choose,” said Eric Kuehn, chief nameplate engineer for the Focus Electric. “The Focus and Fusion are great examples of how we transformed our fleet of cars, utilities and trucks with leading fuel efficiency.”
The company’s first foray into all-electric vehicles achieves a stated 110-mpge city and a 105-mpge combined, giving a six mile-per-gallon equivalent advantage over the Leaf. It seems unlikely that those extra miles would come into play very often, though.
Range anxiety will probably be enough to keep most EV drivers reasonably far from exhausting their charge, or even testing the extra range claims that differentiates the Focus.
Instead, it really wins over the Leaf by offering more interior space, half the charging time and the chance to blend in with other cars if you don’t always want to brandish the green cars cause.
Ford is positioning itself to have a lineup of efficiency-minded cars with the 2013 Fusion getting a 1.6-liter EcoBoost with a projected 37-mpg highway consumption rating.
Ford says that will round out their lineup with 10 fuel-efficiency leaders across various segments. It’s important to note that the Focus beats Nissan but still isn’t the most efficient EV available. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV gets 112 mpge combined or 126 city.
UPDATE: The Focus Electric has a 76-mile range on a single charge.
Those heading to the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and/or the 2012 Detroit Auto Show may want to recycle their plastic bottles while at the convention center. Ford and Unifi will be collecting plastic water bottles constructed of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from the two shows and will recycle them to make the Repreve seating material found in the EV.
Repreve is a mixture of post-industrial fiber waste and post-consumer waste such as the PET plastic water bottles. Apparently each Ford Focus Electric will use about 22 plastic bottles in its interior and Ford and Unifi hopes to help divert 2 million plastic bottles from landfills. According to Ford, right now, the Focus EV is approximately 90-percent recyclable, but they’re working on making that 100-percent.
Google is all about advancing technology in order to improve our world and lifestyle, and it appears that they also support any other company that’s pro-technology.
The massive search engine turned all-things technology firm was given the keys to the first Ford Focus electric vehicle off the assembly line.
It’ll be interesting to see if Google will be going domestic in continuing to develop their autonomous vehicle technology that’s currently taking place on Toyota‘s Prius. There’s probably a better chance that the electric Focus will be making its way as a Google Street View vehicle though, spying on us and taking unsuspecting photos without wasting a drip of gas or polluting our world.
The day that a fleet of self-driving electric vehicles with Google plastered across the side of them doesn’t seem so far off.
The Focus EV, says Ford, is expected to achieve a miles per gallon equivalent (mpge) rating of 100, besting the Nissan Leaf by a single digit. This would make it the most efficient model available in the US, were it not for the 126 mpge Mitsubishi i.
As a result of these new offerings, Ford says almost one third of its lineup now has a 40 mpg or higher model.
In addition, giving the Focus Electric an edge on the competition is a new charging system that allows the battery to be recharged in half the time of the Nissan Leaf, using a 240 volt outlet. Ford says this works out to roughly 30 miles per hour of charging.
The Focus Electric will get a new MyFord Touch system designed to work with electric vehicles and provide more information for drivers. In addition, a MyFord Mobile app will allow owners to charge their vehicle remotely and check on battery life, state-of-charge and more.
In addition to it’s eco-friendly nature, Ford is touting the Focus EV as a livable 5-seater, with “real driving enjoyment”.
At launch, the Focus Electric will be available in just California and the New York/New Jersey areas, and later in 2012 Ford will expand the launch markets to include: Atlanta; Austin and Houston, Texas; Boston; Chicago; Denver; Detroit; Los Angeles; San Francisco; San Diego; New York; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.
GALLERY: Ford Focus Electric
With the release of Ford’s electric Focus hatchback around the corner, Ford is looking to educate consumers on eco-friendly vehicles. They’ve teamed up with SHFT.com, a website developed by actor Adrian Grenier (from Entourage) and film producer Peter Glatzer to promote green and eco-consciousness to younger consumers.
Ford is chipping in by funding a series of short documentaries in order to push forward the idea of sustainability by incorporating pop culture like film, music and design. These documentaries will take an in-depth look at how innovators are shaping sustainable businesses. SHFT.com will also be helping promote Ford at events such as film festivals.
“SHFT.com celebrates businesses where great design, sustainability and innovation meet, which is why we are so excited to be forging this relationship with Ford,” said Grenier.
[Source: Automotive News]
Recognized each year at the LA Auto Show, the finalists for the 2012 Green Car of the Year award have been released, spanning the gamut of possible alternative fuel vehicles. The nominee include the Ford Focus Electric, the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas, the Mitsubishi i, the Toyota Prius v and the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI.
While fully electric models like the Fusion Electric and Mitsubishi i are obvious choices, the list goes on to include the Prius v hybrid, the Passat TDI diesel and even the natural gas powered Civic.
“This year’s Green Car of the Year finalists underscore that there is no single solution to our transportation challenges,” said Ron Cogan, publisher of Green Car Journal and editor of GreenCar.com. “Here we have five exceptional answers to the question of how we’re going to increase efficiencies, reduce tailpipe and CO2 emissions, and decrease petroleum use. These nominees deserve to be recognized for their unique approaches in providing consumers diverse choices as cars intelligently evolve toward a more environmentally-compatible motoring future.”
Along with staff from the Green Car Journal, this year’s judging panel for the 2012 Green Car of the Year award includes Carl Pope, Sierra Club chairman; Frances Beinecke, Natural Resources Defense Council president; as well as Jay Leno and Carroll Shelby.
For the next generation of Ford’s in-dash displays, the company is actually putting some thought into them—and focus groups are using a high-tech virtual simulator to determine what works in relaying information to drivers and passengers alike.
The driving simulator is carefully designed to match the interior of a Ford Focus Electric, with two 4.2-inch color LCD screens on both sides of the speedometer. Once the occupant gets in (and 30 drivers have already), the simulator takes him on a diverse 11-mile drive—across winding hills, city streets, country roads, stretches of flat nothingness, and Grandma’s house.
“These screens are an integral part of Focus Electric and we thought the best way to make sure they would do their job is to have people come in and try them out for themselves,” said Paul Aldighieri, an engineer with Ford. “The only true way to get a feel for what the screens are telling the driver is by actually getting behind the wheel.”
The simulator gauges how drivers react to all of the information that pertains to the Focus Electric: battery charge, remaining range, and whether you could be driving even more efficiently. It’s a lot of information to display, especially while someone’s driving and doing the 100 other things one normally does while driving (applying makeup, eating cheeseburgers, flipping off tailgaters, sexting) so engineers have to determine what’s effective and what’s not. Butterflies to display eco-friendliness, for example, are more welcoming than circuitboard graphics.
The system is integrated into MyFord Touch, which offers information about range, destinations and charge points. It’s all controlled through five buttons on the steering wheel, which will also bring up the ability to customize information to individual drivers (which Ford calls “MyView”). When the Ford Focus Electric finally comes out, it’ll be key for consumers to know that, well, circuits are too nerdy for environmentalists!
The electric car market will become much more competitive in the next year when the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Ford Focus Electric hit the road. An announcement was just made regarding the official miles per gallon equivalency ratings, or MPGe, putting the Mitsubishi in the EV lead for now.
It should be made clear that the i(subcompact) is an entire class-size smaller than the Volt or Leaf(compact), so this is a ‘small’ victory.
The Mitsubishi i is $13,000 less than the Volt and $5000 less than the Leaf. The i will cost $27,990 for the ES model before a federal tax credit of $7,500 making the i the least expensive mass produced EV in the U.S. The i can be preordered now with the first shipments available in early 2012.
Ford thinks it’s finally figured out the best place to put the charging plug on an electric car: on the front grille, like the Nissan Leaf? On the pillar, like the Tesla? Or where the gas cap is supposed to be, like on the G-Wiz?
Nope, to all of those: Ford believes that the charging port for their upcoming electric Focus should be on the left front fender, so drivers can see the charge port when leaving the vehicle and remind themselves to charge up, and where it also won’t get easily damaged.
“The left front fender location keeps the charge port in sight, before the customer enters or exits the car, for an easy reminder to unplug or recharge,” said Mary Smith, a supervisor with Ford’s electric vehicle program. “It creates an intuitive placement for owners that also has aesthetic appeal.”
Owners of electric cars are expected to usually charge their vehicles at home, at a rate of nearly four times per day or almost 1,500 times per year. Compare this to the average owner filling up a gas tank once a week, and it’s important to find a spot for the charging port that’s both convenient and safe. If the port was in the front or rear, for example, owners would have to dig it out from snow or debris, and it could get damaged in even a minor accident.
But most importantly, with the charging port on the front fenders, it’s easy to stick on more of those stylish fake fender vents that have swept the industry, as if their designers were zombies that had shuffled into a Pep Boys. After all, what’s the point of burying an electric charging port subtly into the grille when it can impress people alongside all that “ELECTRIC” badging?
Consumer Electronics retailer Best Buy is already selling Brammo electric motorcycles and has won contracts to supply home charging equipment for the upcoming Ford Focus Electric and Mitsubishi i Electric Vehicle. Now, it looks like the company might actually consider selling electric cars or at least contribute in some way to the ownership experience.
Chad Bell, a senior director from Best Buy, recently said, “we are having conversations with startups,” and “we are very excited about several partnerships that we can’t talk about yet.”
From some angles selling EVs make sense. Best Buy currently has 1,101 stores across the U.S. and as Bell noted, the company’s retail stores have far higher volumes of people coming through their doors every month than most dealers.
Having access to a turn-key retail network already vested in the field of electronic transportation could prove very attractive for small companies trying to break into the market, but at the other end of the spectrum, Bell says there are plenty of opportunities for Best Buy to work with established auto manufacturers. Examples include teaching consumers about EVs and how to operate them; including charging equipment, as well as syncing smart phones with vehicle connectivity systems, tasks that many dealers might find more effective to outsource than performing in-house.
In regards to the push for more EV vehicle focus, Best Buy’s Bell said, “it’s not a short-term play for us. This is a long-term business for us to be in.”
[Source: Automotive News]