Ford Announces Focus Electric with Value Charging Data Cellphone

Home   /   Ford Announces Focus Electric with Value Charging Data Cellphone

first_imgLAS VEGAS – Ford joined the electric car fray today with the announcement of the Ford Focus Electric. Ford’s first electric car ships late this year and will be more like the Nissan Leaf than the Chevrolet Volt because it’s an electric-drive-only car. And it will employ an enhanced version of Ford Sync and MyFord Touch with an embedded cellular modem, the first for a Ford Sync vehicle, that lets the car search for the cheapest recharging rates. The delivered price will likely be under $25,000. The range will be around 100 miles.  Enhancements to MyFord Touch With the Focus Electric, Ford rolled out new dashboard technology to help drivers maximize their range while driving, customize the instrument panel view, and communicate with the car and the charging process when they’re away from the car. The MyFord Touch touchscreen display already on other Fords and Lincolns gets enhancements applicable to electric driving such as customize (called MyView) their driving-range display or give feedback on regenerative braking performance (Brake Coach) which boils down to: Long, gentle braking regenerates more energy than race-car stops. As on other Fords, the MyFord Touch interface comprises an eight-inch center stack touchscreen display and two 4.2-inch displays flanking the speedometer. MyFord Touch Driver Connect Technology Embeds a CellphoneThis is the first MyFord Touch vehicle with an embedded cellular phone. It lets the driver monitor the car’s charging from afar. It’s necessary because the core Ford Sync technology of the past three years (Bluetooth, music connectors, free emergency crash notification) uses the driver’s paired cellphone. You can’t have one phone be in the car while it’s parked as well as in the hands of the driver who is elsewhere. Ford calls the embedded phone plus data services MyFord Touch Driver Connect technology. It’s free for the first three years of ownership or lease and the price after that – as is often the case when automakers say “free for the first X years” – is TBD. Ford crosses that bridge when they come to it. Since Ford has made a point of beating competitors’ feature sets (mpg, charging time) it would likely have to be under the $200 a year GM charges for its basic OnStar service, Safe & Sound. Value Charging Powered by Microsoft for Cheapest Electric Rates The Focus Electric anticipates the advent of time-of-day electric pricing in more areas of the U.S. We don’t have enough generating power on a hot summer afternoon and too much late at night. When offered cheaper rates in the early morning hours, consumers may want to defer electric car charging and dishwasher operation. Ford calls this “Value Charging by Microsoft” because you-know-who is part of the equation. Via an online search (through Microsoft), the car searches for the best and cheapest time to charge the Focus Electric. According to Ed Pleet, product and business manager for connected services, “Value charging allows our customers to reduce their electricity costs by taking advantage of off-peak or other reduced rates from their utility without a complicated set-up process.” The driver needs to key in the time he or she needs the car the next morning; Value Charging figures out when to start charging based on how empty the batteries are, and when within the late night / early morning hours electricity is cheapest. Value charging won’t matter until your electric company actually offers time-of-day pricing, and that entails installing a smart meter at the house, and possibly a two-way connection if there’s a pricing-plus feature that negotiates a cap on usage during peak hours in exchange for lower overall rates. Eco Routing via Onboard Navigation In conjunction with the Focus Electric navigation system, drivers will get the option for an “EcoRoute option based on characteristics of efficient EV driving.” If you’re going to out-drive the range of the Focus Electric – range being one statistic Ford didn’t yet announce – you can get a list of public charging stations through Ford Sync’s Traffic, Directions and Information (TDI) service.  Match and Raise You on Statistics: Quicker Recharge, More MPG than Leaf The Focus Electric isn’t the first to the party but Ford says it will be better than the competitors in several ways. The available 240-volt household charger will fully recharge the Focus Electric in 3-4 hours, half that of the Nissan Leaf, Ford says. (To be meaningful, the Focus Electric would need to have equivalent range.) Ford also says the Focus Electric will offer a 1 mpg equivalent better than Chevrolet Volt “and [be] competitive with other battery electric vehicles.” In electric mode, most lightweight cars (meaning Volt and Leaf) get around 100 mpg equivalent, factoring in the cost of using power generated by an electric company vs. burning fossil fuel in an internal combustion engine. A 1 mpg savings is a rounding error. If Ford is competitive on price as well, the selling price would be in the low thirties, no more, and $25,000 or less after a $7,500 federal tax credit. The Leaf stickers at $32,780, or $25,280 after the tax credit. The Volt lists for $41,000 but the gasoline engine makes it a different car, one that could be used for all kinds of driving including vacation trips. One indicator on Ford’s possible pricing aggressiveness is the price of the 240-volt home charger: $1,500 sold through Best Buy. Most other 240-volt chargers are about $2,000. 120-volt household chargers are cheaper still, but they take overnight to fully charge an elecric car. Ford said the charger plug was designed for easy use, including indicator lights on the jack to indicate proper connections and a quick read on state-of-charge. But How Long Will It Run? The information Ford presented leading up to the announcement didn’t go into detail on range. The closest competitor, the Nissan Leaf, like the Focus a roomy compact-class car, is good or about 100 miles, meaning as little as 50 miles under adverse conditions or if treated like a sports car; as much as 125 miles driven by a hypermiler. (See Nissan Leaf First Drive: Groundbreaking Electric Car.) So expect a similar range. Ford now says the range will be “up to 100 miles depending on driving style.” The Chevrolet Volt, our reigning Digital Drive Car of the Year, is a plug-in hybrid meaning it runs on battery power only for 25-40 miles (depending on conditions) then switches to a small gasoline internal combustion engine using a nine-gallon fuel tank. Second ces Automaker Keynote in 2 Days The Ford Focus Electric was rolled out at a ces 2011 keynote speech by Ford CEO Alan Mulally. It was the second automaker keynote in two days, following a keynote by Audi CEO Rupert Stadler that some found a snooze (it wasn’t) because the Audi keynote was short on brand-new-product information. It was meaningful for those who listened carefully to Audi’s commitment to alternative-fuel vehicles, to closer alliances with the CE and PC industries (the announcement it will use nVidia’s Tegra 2 chip to control dashboard functions), and to make sure in-cockpit infotainment systems won’t be rendered obsolete before the car’s mechanicals give way. That is a huge issue for automakers and is only now starting to be addressed as we near a decade of life with iPods. Ford Electric Car’s Embedded Phone: Is Ford Shifting Focus?last_img

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