2012 Ford Focus Electric Won’t Charge as Fast as Nissan LEAF

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2012 Ford Focus Electric live at CES 2011

2012 Ford Focus Electric live at CES 2011

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One of the biggest drawbacks to electric car ownership today is the time it takes to recharge the car when the batteries are depleted. So it comes as no surprise that the time it takes a car to charge from empty is a big selling point. 

A few weeks ago, Ford seemingly pulled ahead of its rivals Nissan with the announcement that the 2012 Ford Focus Electric would be able to charge from a 240V level 2 charging station in under four hours. In contrast, the 2011 Nissan LEAF takes up to 8 hours to charge from a 240V level 2 charging station. 

But the Nissan Leaf has something the Ford Focus hasn’t got: the option to charge using a DC fast-charge station, capable of recharging its battery pack to 80% full in under 30 minutes. 

So where does that leave Ford? 

Confined to the city.  

2012 Ford Focus Electric live at CES 2011

2012 Ford Focus Electric live at CES 2011

Enlarge Photo

It boils down to charge times. While 30 minutes is less than the time it normally takes to visit a restaurant or coffee shop for example, 4 hours is much longer than you’d normally spend taking a break from driving. 

For comparison, that’s longer than the check-in times for most Transatlantic flights. 

But why isn’t Ford including a fast-charge option at the moment? 

We suspect it comes down to two things: cost and battery care. 

Fast charging stations are expensive. So is implementing the technology to make use of it. In addition,  a U.S. SAE standard has not yet been agreed on for using fast charging. As anyone who purchased a Betamax video cassette will tell you, choosing the wrong standard before it is adopted can be a costly move. 

In order to keep the cost of the 2012 Ford Focus Electric down, Ford may have made an executive decision to keep the fast charging components missing from the Focus Electric until they have dropped in price and been formally adopted by the SAE as a recognized fast-charge standard. 


2012 Ford Focus Electric launch, New York City, January 2011 - battery pack in load bay

2012 Ford Focus Electric launch, New York City, January 2011 - battery pack in load bay

Enlarge Photo
Onto battery care. As Nissan has admitted, fast-charging the 2011 LEAF from level 3 CHAdeMO chargers will cause premature battery pack ageing. Using a fast-charge station once in a while may not cause the pack too many issues, but Nissan advises against fast charging on a daily basis. 

Knowing the effect that fast charging has on battery packs, Ford may have taken the decision to prevent fast-charging and prolong pack life. 

From engineering and financial standpoints, not including the level 3 CHAdeMO standard on the 2012 Ford Focus Electric may be a sensible move. But to consumers it further accentuates the issues surrounding charging and range anxiety.

When it was unveiled, the 2012 Ford Focus Electric showed great promise. With the most conventional looks of any electric car so far, it promised incognito electric vehicle driving in an unassuming vehicle built on the proven Focus platform. 

But without a fast-charge option the Focus Electric risks segregation rather than the normality and reliability the Focus brand has been known for. 

Will consumers buy it over the more quirky 2011 Nissan LEAF and 2011 Chevrolet Volt? We’ll have to wait and see. 


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Comments (19)
  1. Fast charge is a throw away here in the US where it is almost impossible to find a 240V charging station. Even hard to find a 110V source to keep my diesel warm. Ford seems to have the right of it for now. Considering the cost of a battery pack and you will do NOTHING to decrease its operational life!

  2. One of the biggest obstacles for mass adoption on BEV’s is cost. Hopefully the reason for not having a quick charge option is to follow Henry Ford’s motto of “You can have any color as long as it is black” to keep production cost low. In turn equating to a lower sticker price at the dealership. I personally would prefer $2k in my pocket opposed to a quick charge port. BTW when will Ford publish the Focus EV pricing?

  3. This does not dissuade me from considering a Focus EV. Fast charging is detrimental to battery health, and most likely won't be needed if you bought the right vehicle for your particular application.

  4. I believe that fast charging from a large battery at home will be the primary way EVs are charged in the future. I have no doubt that that batteries that can handle fast charging will be developed - the big problem is finding a power source that can handle that much power. A battery at home can be slowly charged whenever power is available and then quickly download the energy to your car whenever you park your car at home. Of course the fly in the ointment is that the cost of batteries has to drop quite a bit before this scenario becomes workable. I believe the time will come given the intense need for a buffered power delivery system.that much power. A battery at home can be slowly charged whenever power is available and then quickly download the energy to your car whenever you park your car at home. Of course the fly in the ointment is that the cost of batteries has to drop quite a bit before this senerio becomes workable.

  5. While I appreciate your optimism, The battery issue is a really, really, really big fly in the ointment. Your option is similar to the idea of having two battery packs and swapping them out. What you are talking about would likely be described as a "super-capacitor"

  6. Level 3 charging will be the future - but what is the point of putting a level 3 charger in a car when you cant find one. I believe there is only a handful of Level 3 chargers right now. Most charging will be at home with a 240v. Ford seems to recognize that this is where charging is now. Doesnt seem to difficult to change future gens of Focus to have a level 3 once a standard is in place.
    So - I guess i will charge in half the time with my Focus at home than with a Leaf. That is a fact and with a charger I can find.

  7. I don't think fast charging is even neccesary for EVs, unless you are trying to sell them as a primary car. Right now, it really doesn't make sense to try and sell EVs as a primary car, since the market, and supply can't even cover those people that want one for a commuter car. Fast charging may be more important down the road where there are significant numbers of EVs on the road, and EV is a primary choice as a family car. That's at least 5-10 years down the road (if not more). Overnight chargin at home with the occasional top-off at a public charger will suffice for at least the first million EVs on the road - if not more.
    Stop trying to make the EVs appeal to 100% of the market. No car can appeal to 100% of the market. The EV has enough advantages on it's own that it will sell as is. Not having a fast charge in no way discourages me from wanting to purchase a Focus EV.

  8. I think Nissan initially oversold the Leaf's fastcharge capability and subsequently backtracked by not offering any fastcharge capability as standard; it's an $700 option on the most expensive version of the Leaf. Since the extra cost don't seem too high Nissan probably decided against offering it as standard because it doesn't go too well with the 8 year guarantee it had to offer on the batterypack in order to overcome "battery anxiety". Also like Eletruk mentioned the Leaf will probably end up along side other vehicles in multi vehicle households, not all of which need to be roadtrip capable, least of all the compact hatchback. So I guess it makes sense for Ford to dispense with the fastcharge capability all to gether and focus on accelerated level 2 charging. Fastcharging is probably for a next generation of batteries that can handle it better.

  9. Nissan's message: treat your batteries nicely.

  10. Nissan's message: treat your batteries nicely.

  11. This title is deceptive. In the vast majority of instances and use cases the Focus will charge at a faster rate. The article also does not mention that the DC charger is optional equipment on the LEAF. By the time DC charging stations are available to a percentage of the population that actually matters there will likely be a new SAE standard adopted. Re: "Ford risks segregation." How many people out there are planning to buy an EV knowing they will rely on DC fast chargers regularly right now?

  12. For most people, fast charging is emphatically NOT NEEDED. Charging times, like range anxiety, is something that only PEOPLE WHO DON'T ACTUALLY USE EVS worry about. We have been driving the GM EV1 Gen I and II and now our Toyota RAV4 EV since 1996; easily more than 100,000 miles. They have the same 100 mile range as the new EVs like the Leaf. We charge at night when the electric rates are low and when there is vastly excessive electric generation capacity compared to peak demand times. We plug in at night and end up with a full charge in the morning. The car charges while we sleep, just like our toothbrushes, laptops and cell phones. We don't know or care how long it takes to charge any of those.
    Like most people we drive about 20-30 miles per day for commuting and shopping, and we charge a couple times a week. Charging is a non-issue. People who actually use EVs learn and understand this pretty quickly. We also have a gas car that gets very little use. Most of our driving, like most Americans, is under 40 miles per day.

  13. It's odd that the fast charge on the Leaf is an option in the US but standard in the UK. what is it like in other Leaf countries?

  14. amen jeff,
    i have said this a couple dozen times, at least.
    those who actually own evs, never seem to have any of these "phobias" - LOL.

  15. I hope that whoever wrote the title and summary is ashamed of themselves. The title states that the Focus won't charge as fast as the Leaf. That title is FALSE in all respects except under one condition that the majority of owners won't even encounter. Under normal charging circumstances, the Focus charges twice as fast as the Leaf.

  16. Actually, Ford is waiting for SAE committee to decide on a US standard (unlikely it will happen at earliest late this year) so this article's author is not quite right. The SAE has only decided on the standard for Level 1 and Level 2 charging. The Leaf's CHAdeMO is the standard in Japan, and I believe Europe has adopted it. Why the SAE hasn't committed to an already existing standard is anybody's guess, but considering that most Nissan dealerships will have these installed and in California we will have many more of them along the 5 fwy corridor installed I have no issue getting a Leaf with QC.
    As for the battery degradation it is a result of exceeding the max voltage tolerances and over-heating of the batteries during the charge. This is mitigated by both how the Leaf's batteries are constructed (different than Tesla for example) and how the Leaf's software controls the charging to keep these issues within tolerances. There already new battery technologies that are demonstrating that these issues will be further reduced.

  17. The title is technically correct, but definitely misleading.
    I'm skipping the Leaf and waiting for the Focus EV, because I like the styling much better. But, I applaud Nissan for their pioneering effort and for setting reasonable price competition.
    I don't think I would use a fast charger often, but I would like to have the option, even if it costs extra. That would allow me to drive to San Diego and back (which I do about once a month) without having to fire up the F-150. It's not a deal-breaker, but it's definitely a disappointment. I'm sure Ford will come around after a Level 3 standard emerges.

  18. EV charging stations are starting to pop up in Shopping Malls. BP plans to set up charging stations for the public. and ... Right now there is a "Green Highway" being constructed from Washington state to California! Plenty of EV charging is on its way shortly!!

  19. Who cares about the fast charging. 98% of the driving of an electric will be within 30 miles of home. Rarely will anyone need or use the fast charging stations being promoted by Nissan. And your article is misleading because the Focus charges twice as fast in both 220 V and 120 V charging. That's 2 out of 3 so how can you make a claim that the Leaf is faster? I think you have a biased author here.

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