Nissan Leaf Vs. Ford Focus ElectricEnlarge Photo
If you want an electric car, but you don't need to stand out to others as you might in a Nissan Leaf, the Ford Focus Electric is another all-electric model worth considering.
Both of these battery electric vehicles offer different answers to the same question: What should a compact electric hatchback look like?
The Nissan Leaf is a dedicated design, with its lithium-ion battery designed into the floorpan and the area under the rear seat. Its styling is distinctive--with no grille up front and lengthy clear headlight units stretching back along the fender line that are topped with aerodynamic fins--and, to some, polarizing.
The Ford Focus Electric, on the other hand, is adapted from the conventional Focus five-door hatchback, and aside from a different "grille" design up front, a couple of door badges, and a charge-port door on the left-front fender, you'd never know it wasn't a gasoline car.
So you can decide whether you want a car whose design says, "Hey, I'm electric!" or one that hides its plug-in running gear in an utterly conventional body shared with a gasoline compact.
The two cars are fairly close EPA ratings for range and efficiency. The Nissan Leaf has been boosted to 84 miles of range, with a rating of 99 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). Based on the distance it will travel electrically on the amount of energy contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.
The Focus Electric does just slightly better on both counts, with a rated 76 miles of range and a 105 MPGe rating. It also retains the good roadholding and fun driving experience of the stock Focus, and its 107-kilowatt (143-horsepower) motor is more powerful than the Leaf's 80-kW (107-hp)--though the Focus Electric is heavier than the Leaf.
The Ford electric car also has a notable operating advantage over the Leaf: Its onboard charger operates at up to 6.6 kilowatts (allowing a full recharge in as little as four hours on a 240-Volt Level 2 charger), against the Leaf's 3.3 kW--although for 2013 the Leaf offers the option of a 6.6-kW one. On the other hand, the Leaf offers a DC quick-charging capability--not available on the Focus Electric--that will recharge its battery pack to 80-percent capacity in around half an hour.
The Ford Focus Electric is built in Wayne, Michigan, on the same assembly lines as gasoline Focus models. U.S. Leaf models are produced in Smyrna, Tennessee, and powered by U.S.-fabricated lithium-ion cells as well.
The final distinction between the two is likely to be availability. The Focus Electric is expected to remain a very low-volume vehicle; Nissan has high-volume hopes for the Leaf, but it's proven to be a rather slow-seller so far, with less than 10,000 sold in the U.S. even in 2012.
The Leaf is cheaper, with the base-level Nissan Leaf S model starting at $28,980, but the mid-level Leaf SV now carries a price starting at $31,820, and the high-end Leaf SL starts at $35,020. The Focus Electric is priced at $35,170, but both Ford and Nissan have been offering $199-a-month lease deals for these models.
In the end, buyers need to decide if they want a low-volume, pretty-much invisible electric car, or a more distinctive design sold in much higher numbers that charges more slowly.
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