In the space of a few days, Ford delivered its 2016 trends report to the public and unveiled its sweeping electric vehicle initiative promising 13 new models with hybrid or EV powertrains by 2020. At the same time, the automaker announced the second generation of the Ford Focus Electric featuring a range of 100 miles and fast-charging capabilities. Considering the specs and production date (late 2016), the updated EV could contend with a crowded plug-in marketplace upon arrival.
According to a statement by Ford, the next Focus Electric will hit triple digits in range for the first time, up from its current range of 76 miles for the 2016 model year. In addition, fast-charging will be part of the package, allowing for the battery to hit 80% capacity (80 miles) in 30 minutes. Without question, these upgrades would change the appeal of the current model, which we tested on the East Coast corridor in July 2015.
While the drive character and overall experience of the Focus Electric ranks high among EVs we’ve tested, the limited range and charging options (maxing out at Level 2) make it a tough sell for a daily driver, even at its attractive MSRP ($29,170) after several price drops.
By comparison, the Nissan Leaf S offers 84 miles of range and fast-charging capability in the base model with optional charge package ($1,770) capable of Level 2 or DC Fast. That makes the base model $30,780 if you want to charge on anything faster than a household plug.
On the other hand, Nissan’s 2016 model year features 107 miles of range in the SV trim ($34,200), which makes it the longest-running EV outside of a Tesla. By the end of next year, GM plans to have the Chevy Bolt EV — a model which will shake up the segment — available with 200 miles of range.
With nearly double the range of the current Leaf SV and future Focus Electric, the Bolt EV would have tremendous appeal if the price after the federal tax credit ends up around $30,000 (i.e., a $37,500 MSRP).
Of course, the popularity of any new EV models will depend in part on the rollout of the fast-charging network. According to Mike Tinskey, head of Ford’s vehicle electrification unit, charging speeds and capacity might be as important as range in the coming years. Tinskey told Autos Cheat Sheet that gauging the daily needs of a driver and matching that to available chargers is a key factor in the next generation.
As it relates to the Leaf SV, consumers may not choose to spend the extra money on a Bolt EV if fast chargers are not readily accessible. Currently, fast-charging infrastructure is limited in most parts of the U.S., while even Level 2 charging has become a competitive sport in parts of California. Consumers who decide 100 miles is enough and rarely expect to fast-charge (for a fee) while on the road may decide the Leaf or next-generation Focus EV (or 2016 Chevy Volt) are better values.
Taking everything into account, the success of the second-gen Focus Electric should hinge on pricing. Ford has every right to boast of its EV’s driving experience. If the better-equipped model undercuts the long-range Leaf in 2016, Ford will have the strong all-electric entry it has lacked in the segment.