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Ford dives into the electric car revolution

By raccars Published

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Ford has firmly set out its stall in favour of an electric car line-up, announcing that it will spend £3 billion developing EVs over the next five years.

The company is planning to add 13 electric cars to its model line-up by 2020, starting with a new, upgraded Focus Electric which can be recharged to 80 per cent of full power within 30 minutes with a high speed charger. The current Focus Electric takes about two and a half hours to reach the same level of charge.

Currently only 13 per cent of Ford's cars are electrically powered, but the firm is aiming to increase this to 40 per cent within five years. Plug-in hybrid, electric and hydrogen fuelled cars are gaining ground rapidly but still only account for 3 per cent of new car registrations in the UK, according to figures provided by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Thus far only the Focus hatchback model is available in all-electric format in the UK, together with a Mondeo Hybrid. Elsewhere in the world the company has made available hybrids and plug-in hybrid versions of the C-Max, Fusion and Lincoln MKZ models.

How Ford is advancing electric car development

The move comes as a response to changing global trends which are seeing higher demand for cleaner, greener vehicles. Ford claims that the new plan requires a change of approach to electric cars. The company is planning to conduct a research project focused on the way in which drivers interact with their vehicles, the results of which will also inform Ford's autonomous driving research projects. The company has come to the conclusion that what drivers are looking for is not the maximum level of vehicle technology, but rather technology which is well organised, interesting, exciting and pleasurable to use. Ford believes that the development of new technologies needs to be driven by user experiences to be made meaningful. It plans to use knowledge gained from sociologists and anthropologists, in addition to input from scientists and designers.

Focus Electric

The initial fruits of this labour will be seen in the new Ford Focus Electric, with its fast charging battery and a stated range of 100 miles. Lots of other modern tech will be thrown at the car too. This is expected to include an instrument display which can be customised to show drivers how best to brake to make use of regenerative energy capturing systems. The same technology should also enable them to monitor how the vehicle is using its power supply and thus assist them in driving more efficiently. Ford has further promised that driving dynamics will be improved to make the experience more entertaining. The car is scheduled to reach the production line in late 2016 and will be on sale by the end of next year.

The current Focus Electric is priced at £31,145 and is eligible for the Government's plug-in car subsidy of £5,000, bringing the price to £26,145. However this is still pretty expensive for a car which takes 11.7 seconds to reach 62mph and tops out at 85mph. Even the boot is smaller than the standard Focus, thanks to a battery about the size of a large suitcase.

Real world testing has also demonstrated a maximum range of 75 miles from a full charge, rather than the 100 miles claimed by Ford. The one thing still holding back electric cars from taking the market by storm is the lack of performance, particularly in vehicles which usually cost far more than their combustion-engined counterparts. Hopefully Ford's research and development in electric vehicles will see the firm able to narrow that gap somewhat. It seems clear that customers are unlikely to really embrace the electric vehicle culture until they can achieve similar levels of practicality and driving pleasure to that delivered by conventional power trains.

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