Ford to Introduce Electric Focus in Key U.S. Markets in Late 2011

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Ford Motor (F) plans to start selling an all-electric version of its Ford Focus compact late next year, beginning in 14 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., the company said Monday.

The markets chosen for initial sale of the Ford Focus Electric were based on several criteria, including commuting patterns and existing hybrid purchase trends, Ford said in a statement. The model will be first made available for sale in: Atlanta; Houston and Austin, Texas; Boston; Chicago; Denver; Detroit; Los Angeles; San Francisco; San Diego; New York; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh and Durham, N.C.; Richmond, Va., Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

"This is the first step in rolling out the Focus Electric," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas. "As the country continues to build up its electric vehicle infrastructure and demand for the Focus Electric grows, Ford will continue to evaluate additional markets and consider making this vehicle available in more cities across the country."

Built Alongside the Gas Version

Rather than a traditional gas engine, the Focus Electric's motor will be powered by a 23 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that Ford has said is targeted to go up to 100 miles before recharging. Unlike hybrid vehicles, which utilize both gasoline and electric engines to allow them to travel greater distances, the Focus Electric requires that it be recharged via an electrical outlet, either 120 or 240 volts.

The Focus Electric will be built alongside gasoline-powered versions of the Focus at the company's Michigan Assembly plant in the Detroit suburb of Wayne, the company said. By using an existing vehicle platform and assembly line, Ford will have the ability to vary production based on demand for the Focus Electric, it said.

Ford is due to introduce an overhauled Focus line next year. The version sold in North America has changed only slightly since its introduction in 1999, although it did undergo a mild freshening for the 2008 model year.

More Electrics Models Are on the Way

The Focus Electric will debut about a year after General Motors rolls out its much anticipated Chevrolet Volt, slated to begin hitting dealer showrooms by year's end. Though GM refers to the Volt as an "EV," or electric vehicle, it has both electric and gasoline engines, similar to other hybrids.

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Ford currently sells several gasoline-electric hybrid models, including versions of its popular Fusion midsize sedan and Escape compact SUV that get better gas mileage than traditional gasoline-powered versions of those models.

Ford said offering more models that rely on electricity for engine power at least to some degree is an important piece of the company's overall strategy. The plan includes introducing five new models in Europe and North America. In addition to Focus Electric, there will be a Transit Connect Electric small commercial van, two next-generation lithium-ion battery hybrids and a plug-in hybrid.

Ford said it has been working with local governments and utility companies in the selected markets to determine whether the infrastructure can accommodate the additional demand for electricity that EVs would require.

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