To date, Ford has seemed particularly reluctant to join the electric car world. While its Ford Focus Electric hatchback has been available for several years in key markets across the U.S. and elsewhere in the world — as well as the Ford C-Max Energi and Ford Fusion (Mondeo) Energi plug-in hybrids in North America — its main focus has been on producing lightweight, fuel-efficient internal combustion engine vehicles.
Those engines, sold under the EcoBoost name and designed to deliver the same power and torque as far larger, less efficient engines, have helped the company give everything from its F-series pickup trucks through to its world-famous Mustang muscle car an improvement in fuel economy of up to 20 percent and tailpipe emissions by up to 15 percent. All without dramatically affecting performance. And while its plug-in hybrids were given some advertising love, Ford’s all-electric Focus — generally considered a compliance car by most in the industry — was all but forgotten.
But that’s about to change, thanks to a new $4.5 billion investment being made by Ford into electrified vehicles.
Announced earlier today at a press conference at its Dearborn Michigan headquarters, Ford says the investment program will see it develop thirteen new electrified vehicles over the next five years, and comes hot on the heels of a $2.1 million investment in an electric vehicle battery lab at the University of Michigan.
The first vehicle to benefit from the new round of investments? The long-forgotten Ford Focus EV.
For the 2017 model year, the Focus Electric will be given a brand new battery pack, increasing its real-world range from the EPA-approved 76 miles per charge of the 2012-2015 Focus Electric to 100 miles per charge. In addition, CCS DC quick charging capability will be added to the model for the first time in its history, making the Ford Focus a far stronger competitor against the popular Nissan LEAF electric hatchback, which itself received a new, longer-range battery pack for the 2016 model year.
Previously, the Ford Focus, while a competent drive, was considered a poor choice for most customers due to its lack of rapid charging capabilities and limited availability. Additionally, the location of the Focus EV’s battery pack meant that the Focus Electric EV had a far smaller load bay than conventional gasoline-powered Focus models.
Due to enter production next year, the new, longer-range, faster-charging Focus Electric will be marketed across the U.S., Europe and Asia, and will mark the start of a wider range of electrified models to come from the blue oval.
Ford says it will also unveil an all-new electrified model at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit this coming January. Teased as a picture of a vehicle hiding under a black cover, Ford says we’ll know more about this particular model on January 11th.
By 2020, Ford says, more than 40 percent of its global production vehicle models will be available with an electrified drivetrain option. While we note that doesn’t necessarily mean fully-electric (or even plug-in hybrid) it does mean that Ford is now looking away from its EcoBoost engines and towards electrified drivetrains as a way to help it meet ever-tightening emissions standards and economy goals.
But with cars like the 200+ mile Chevrolet Bolt EV due to also go on sale next year, and automakers like BMW and Nissan both expected to gradually increase the range of their cars in the coming years, Ford’s all-electric 2017 Focus EV could still find itself at the bottom of the pack in terms of range.
Unless Ford addresses that issue, or dramatically lowers the entry price for the Ford Focus EV, it may still find the electrified hatchback fails to sell as well as it might hope.
From a market perspective however, we welcome another longer-range model for consumers to choose from, because more choice ultimately means more buyers will adopt a cleaner, greener car the next time they go shopping for a car.
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