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2012 Ford Focus Sedan

Ford Transit Connect Electric
Ford gives out some details on the Focus Electric's battery system

Ford is doing its best to stay in the headlines when it comes to the latest in tech. Earlier this week, we brought you news of Ford's efforts to deliver SYNC firmware to new vehicles over Wi-Fi instead of using costly custom-designed hardware.

Today, Ford is spilling the beans on the electric variant of the next generation Ford Focus. Ford is already moving the Focus nameplate up a few rungs from a bargain basement special that is popular with fleet customers to a premium compact, so an electric variant isn't too surprising.

The new Focus Electric will use an advanced lithium-ion battery pack that is [active] liquid cooled to help keep the cells at the perfect operating temperature -- that means cooling the batteries in the hot of summer and heating them in the cold of winter. If you recall, Tesla's CEO called out Nissan for using "primitive" air-cooling on the battery pack used in the Leaf EV. Tesla won't be able to make the same claims against Ford.

“Extreme temperatures impact a battery’s life and performance, making it crucial to have an effective cooling and heating system to regulate temperature for these demanding applications,” said Anand Sankaran, Ford's executive technical leader for Energy Storage and HV Systems.

The active liquid cooling system will also be used to "precondition" the battery pack when charging. The system will automatically bring the batteries to the proper temperature before the charging process begins. If the batteries are already at their optimum temperature, the charging process starts right away.

Ford also announced that the driving range for the Focus Electric will be an impressive 100 miles. The 100-mile figure is identical to that of the Nissan Leaf, but the Focus Electric may have the upper hand in extreme temperatures due to the active cooling system. 

Production of the Focus Electric will begin next year at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant and the vehicle will be available to the public in late 2011. It should be interesting to see how Ford will price the Focus Electric given the more expensive cooling system that it's decided to strap into the vehicle. Nissan's Leaf EV starts at $32,780 before a $7,500 federal tax credit. On the other hand, Chevrolet's Volt will start at $41,000 before the tax credit. We speculate that the Focus Electric will come in somewhere between those two figures.

The Focus Electric isn't the only all-electric vehicle coming out of Ford -- the Transit Connect Electric commercial van will be available later this year. That vehicle has a driving range of 80 miles.

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By Hoser McMoose on 9/4/2010 12:47:21 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with car-mounted solar panels, regardless of type, is typically two-fold:

1. They add cost.

2. They add weight.

The cost is a fairly obvious one. When you're starting with a $30,000 or $40,000 vehicle and trying to compete with $20,000 or $25,00 vehicles you're already on the back-foot. Add in that the usable life of a car is usually around 10 years and you probably won't even break even on the up-front cost, let alone provide any advantage. This is particularly bad if you ever park in a garage, or shade, or simply facing the wrong direction.

The weight thing is a bit trickier. I don't know about those "spray on" solar panels, but any solar panel has some weight to them. Add in the extra weight of the wires and circuitry to do anything useful with the power generated and you're adding weight to the car... which reduces it's range. Lighter panels help but they also tend to be MUCH less effective than heavier panels. Thin-firm solar panels are only about 7 or 8% efficient vs. 18 to 20% for traditional panels. "Spray on" solar panels would probably be worse still. As such even with light panels you'll probably LOSE range while purely driving, the added weight will negatively impact the range more than the added electricity will positively impact it even at the best of times (never mind that most people like to drive at night on occasion, when you would still be carrying the weight but generating zero electricity). So the idea only makes any sense if you spend most of your day parked in sunlight... and again we're back to the thing of parking in garages, shade, etc.

Or put much more simply: leave the solar panels on the roof of your house where: a.) they'll likely last 20 to 25 years, b.) You can use MUCH more efficiency panels, c.) you DON'T have to haul them around with you everywhere you go... err.. assuming you don't live in an RV of course :)

Once we've TOTALLY solved getting electricity to your house, THEN worry about putting solar panels on your car. However until that time put your money where it will be more effective.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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