At Last, Ford Brings Electrified Models to Europe
Ford is a leader in hybrids in America, but it has yet to sell the first one in Europe. I took a test drive of an Escape Hybrid in Paris in 2006, and I thought at the time that this model would quickly arrive at dealers everywhere, but that didn't happen. Similarly, Ford started selling its Focus Electric in the U.S. last year, but Europe is still waiting to see a Ford EV outside of a motor show. So it's a relief to learn that they're finally coming.
It's not exactly logical, because EVs will come before hybrids. The electric Focus will be launched before the end of the year in several European countries. The plug-in hybrid C-Max Energi is expected to come next year, with the conventional hybrid C-Max following in 2015. There's also some hope for the Fusion Energi, but no definite word.
Apparently, Ford believes the regular hybrid of these cars will have difficultly competing with the diesel versions, because they are more expensive. The plug-ins are even more costly, but incentives for those grid-enabled vehicles in several countries provides a business rationale for offering them sooner.
Like the Nissan LEAF, which is built on both sides of the Atlantic, the Focus EV will be built in two different factories. The electric Focus for Europe will be built alongside its gas cousin, in the Saarlouis factory, in Southern Germany. The German price has been revealed (€39,900 or $52,445). Ford dealers should begin taking orders now, except that nobody knows how the price reduction just announced in the U.S. will translate into euros.
A few cars have been put in regular service in Cologne, in the ColognEmobil project. Ford has been running a large research facility in Cologne, and with several local partners, it will put a small fleet of plug-ins in daily use. The demonstration started last year with 10 Transit Connect electric vehicles, two Transit BEVs (full size prototype vans), and five Focus EVs. Seven other Focus EVs will join the fleet this month, and 17 C-Max Energi units. That makes more than 40 plug-ins, given to the city, the airport and other local actors who will drive them everyday.
But the project is much more than that. The idea is to jump-start electric mobility in the whole Cologne area, and it will also install one hundred public chargers. And best of all, the electricity supplied by RheinEnergie will come from renewable sources. So the research goes beyond Ford, but as the only carmaker involved in the project, Ford will be the first to benefit.
And there's more news from Ford, as the Ford Fiesta eWheelDrive prototype that was unveiled a few weeks ago participated in a rally for electric cars earlier this month. This is a prototype, and nobody should expect a production version anytime soon.
Nonetheless, for years, when someone thought of EVs in Europe, Ford was for all intents and purposes left off the list. That's starting to change. The blue oval brand is now building EVs on both side of the Atlantic, and the Focus EV will soon be available in at least six European countries. Sales of the Nissan LEAF are rising, so it's about time for Ford to get into the game.
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