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by Tim Beissmann

UPDATED 10/01/11 @ 4:50 with comment from Ford Australia.

Ford has officially unveiled the all-new 2012 Ford Focus Electric at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show ahead of its North American launch at the end of this this year.

Set to go head-to-head with the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, the Focus Electric is the first fuel-free, zero-emissions passenger vehicle from Ford Motor Co.

It is powered by a 100kW electric motor and a 23-kilowatt-hour battery, which produces a maximum of 92kW and 245Nm of torque. Combined with a single-speed transmission, it is capable of a top speed of 136km/h.

Although not officially confirmed yet, the Focus Electric is expected to have a range of 160km (matching the Leaf). A full recharge from a 240-volt home charging station will take between three and four hours – around half the time of the Leaf.

Where Ford is really aiming to take the upper hand is with interactivity and mobile technology.

Focus Electric owners will have access to the MyFord Mobile smart phone application which allows them to remain in constant contact with their car no matter where it is. With MyFord Mobile, owners can: monitor the car’s state of charge and current range, receive instant vehicle status information, get alerts when it requires charging or has finished charging, and remotely program charge settings and download vehicle data for analysis.

Users can also locate the vehicle with GPS, remotely start the vehicle and remotely lock and unlock the doors. Cleverly linking with MapQuest technology and Ford SYNC’s Traffic Directions and Information system (TDI), it can communicate with charge stations and other points of interest, providing turn-by-turn navigation guidance and providing up-to-date charging station information.

A Microsoft-powered value charging system gives owners information about the cheapest times to plug in, taking advantage of off-peak and reduced-rate times.

The LED light ring around the charge point above the wheel arch also gives drivers information about the vehicle’s level of charge, with quadrants progressively illuminating to reveal stages of charge completion.

The electric theme continues into the cabin, with a range of driver information tools powered by the MyFord Touch system. The instrument panel is linked to an eight-inch touch screen in the centre console, and together they “coach” drivers in EV driving, including how to find the most eco-friendly route.

At the end of a drive, the system reveals how many miles were gained through regenerative braking, how much energy was consumed and the savings made compared with a petrol-powered vehicle.

Similar to the Honda Insight’s flowers and trees, the Focus Electric displays blue butterflies to give a symbolic representation of its remaining range.

Other interior features include hands-free SYNC telephone connectivity, MyKey, Sony audio system with nine speakers, a Sirius HD satellite radio and six airbags.

Visually, the Focus Electric is much less of a standout than its competitors, and retains most of the standard hatch’s styling.

From the outside, the major change is the new grille (which is reminiscent of the Aston Martin brand, as well as the new 2011 Ford Territory), which improves aerodynamics to improve drag.

The new EV also adds 15-spoke 17in alloy wheels, LED daytime running ‘eyebrow’ lights, and a charging port above the driver’s-side front wheel arch.

North American examples of the 2012 Ford Focus Electric will be assembled alongside the petrol versions at Ford’s Michigan Plant in Wayne.

Ford Australia’s Neil McDonald said despite local interest in the Focus Electric, it was too early to put a timeframe on potential markets outside North America and Europe.

He did, however, reveal an Australian launch of the EV was not out of the question further down the track.

“As these electrified vehicles are based on global platforms, we have the opportunity to sell them globally,” Mr McDonald said.

He confirmed initial production plans were for between 5000 and 10,000 per year.

Standard petrol and diesel versions of the Ford Focus will arrive in Australia in the third quarter of 2011.




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