The Ford Focus EV will be based on the next-generation Ford Focus, a capable if not head-turning car. By choosing an existing platform, Ford will save the expense associated with developing a unique design. Ever since the second-generation Prius, with its iconic design, became a hit, automakers have adopted the idea that a hybrid car with an innovative high-tech drivetrain needs to scream out for attention. That’s the direction that Nissan is taking with the Nissan Leaf, due out in limited markets in late 2010. The Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, the new Honda Insight, and the Lexus HS250h are also original purpose-built designs.
Ford is gambling that the cool factor lies in the technology and price, not in the car’s name or the shape of the sheet metal. Pricing is not yet announced, but trimming the cost obviously will give Ford the ability to aim for affordability and profitability. (Nissan is aiming for $25,000 to $30,000 for its EV; and the Chevy Volt will cost in the range of $40,000.)
Ford developed the full BEV powertrain exhibited in the Tourneo Connect Concept in partnership with Smith Electric Vehicles, a company which specializes in converting commercial cars for electric applications. Being part of a different group, Smith Electric Vehicles has also gained government aid to develop the Tourneo Connect BEV Concept a step further. Ford USA has already made it public that it will be offering an electric Transit Commercial vehicle for sale beginning next year.
The power source utilized in the Tourneo Connect BEV Concept that drives the 50kW permanent magnet motor is a 21kWh lithium ion phosphate battery pack, while the drive torque is channeled to the driveshafts by a one-speed transmission. With this arrangement, the car is expected to reach 100 miles at a speed of 80mph in a single charge, while the battery can be fully charged in six to eight hours from a standard mains outlet. The technology is being developed at the UK research and development center of Ford located in Dunton, Essex, which also develops powertrains for all its European car models. The electric vehicles will be tested in real-world driving conditions in Hillingdon, Middlesex by drivers provided by a project partner called Scottish and Southern Energy
A “mule” vehicle in automotive engineering parlance, is a non-representative vehicle fitted with a new powertrain or suspension components for testing purposes. In this case, Ford had a pair of current Focus sedans equipped with an electric drive train and lithium ion battery pack that was developed in partnership with Magna International. I spent some time chatting with chief engineer Greg Frenette and Magna rep Dick Devogelaere about the car and what we would see for production in two years time. The production model will be based on Ford’s C-segment platform, meaning it will be Focus-sized. However, Ford has already said it will have several vehicles in the U.S. market off this platform, including an MPV like the European C-Max. Frenette would not say which body style would initially get the electric drive.