Focus Electric Approved for $10,000 in Taxpayer Handouts

The EPA-approved Focus Electric label certifies that the car has a range of 76 miles on a single charge compared with the 73-mile range of the Leaf.

The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board (CARB) has dictated that owners of the new 2012 Ford Focus Electric can drive in high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Owners also will be able to receive up to $10,000 in tax credits between the state’s new $2,500 rebate and a $7,500 federal tax incentive – both funded by taxpayers at a time of soaring deficits.

These subsidies appear to be critical for sales of the Focus Electric. Without them, the car lists starting at $39,995. This means a typical payment to buy the compact car – with $4,000 down for 48 months – is almost $800 per month at Ford’s 7% interest rate. The gasoline fueled Focus starts at just over $17,000. Critics call this socialism for the rich.

Focus Electric is now claimed to be the U.S.’s most fuel-efficient five-seater with a 110-MPGe city fuel-economy rating, using the new ‘green math.” More power, passenger room and standard features, as well as half the charge time of Nissan Leaf are also claimed.

The advantages appear slight. The EPA-approved Focus Electric label certifies that the car has a range of 76 miles on a single charge compared with the 73-mile range of the Leaf. The average California driver clocks 29 miles a day, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics website.

The approved EPA label also will say customers could save $9,700 in fuel costs over the course of five years compared with the average new vehicle. Your mileage may vary.

The Focus Electric is a conventional EV, at least as far as they exist right now. The Magna conversion removes the powertrain and substitutes a 23 KwH lithium ion battery pack (~$20,000), a single speed transmission and a 92-kW electric motor. The battery pack uses liquid cooling to help increase life. Top speed is limited to 84 mph, and typical range is said to be 50-80 miles, a claim I have not tested, although this is consistent the Nissan Leaf models that I have driven.

Nissan Leaf is also powered by lithium-ion batteries, which generate power output of more than 90 kW and 24 kWh of capacity – roughly $20,000 worth of batteries at current prices. Its electric motor delivers 80 kW/280 Nm. (See also EPA Says Nissan Leaf Gets 106 MPGe)

The Focus Electric’s battery can be recharged in just over three hours using an optional 240-volt charging station (~$2,000 depending on local building codes and electric service). This is about half the charging time of the 2012 Nissan Leaf, which year-to-date has tallied sales of roughly 1,154 units. Drivers also can top off the battery if they have 8-12 hours using any standard 120-volt outlet with the included charging cord. (See also $10,000 Solar Panel Option Coming for Focus Electric Vehicle. Ford is using the new “Green Math” to Calculate Benefits)

The Chevrolet Volt (and other hybrids) has a significant advantage over such pure EVs, since Volt’s onboard gasoline engine can keep it going for 300 miles after the battery dies after 50 miles or so. The Volt, 1,626 sold ytd, is also dependent on Korean battery technology that has been subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. (See General Motors Licenses Argonne Developed Battery Technology. Taxpayers Are Also Subsidizing the Koreans!).

Toyota Prius remains the clear market leader for hybrids in the U.S., 32,144 ytd, as well as the rest of the world, with the Honda Insight a credible alternate choice, 1,265 ytd. (See Driving the 2012 Toyota Prius V – Another Hybrid Benchmark, 2012 Honda Insight Hybrid Ups Fuel Economy at Under $20,000 and Toyota Prices 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid at $32,760 and $40,285)

Ford is tripling production capacity for electrified vehicles through 2013, which means electrified vehicle capacity of more than 100,000 by 2013. Later this year and next, Ford will apply to CARB to have more electrified vehicles qualify for the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, including:

  • 2013 Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, with an overall range in electric and hybrid mode of more than 500 miles and aiming to become the world’s most fuel-efficient midsize sedan with a projected 100 MPGe rating;
  • 2013 C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, with overall range in electric and hybrid mode of more than 500 miles.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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