Ford Focus Electric Vs Chevy Volt: Which Would You Buy, And Why?

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2012 Ford Focus Electric launch, New York City, January 2011 - Nancy Gioia

2012 Ford Focus Electric launch, New York City, January 2011 - Nancy Gioia

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Well, now the news is out: The 2012 Ford Focus Electric, the company's first-ever mass-market battery electric vehicle, will be priced at $39,995.

Perhaps not coincidentally, that's exactly the price of the 2012 Chevrolet Volt, crosstown rival GM's extended-range electric vehicle (achieved by some specific feature reductions).

Both are compact five-door hatchbacks whose front wheels are powered solely by electric traction motors using electricity supplied from a lithium-ion battery pack that plugs into the electricity grid to recharge.

But that's where the similarities end.

  • The Chevy has a range-extending internal combustion engine and a gasoline tank; the Ford has neither.
  • The Focus Electric has a range of up to 100 miles, followed by a recharging period of several hours; the 2012 Volt can go as far as needed using gasoline once the battery is depleted.
  • The 2012 Ford Focus Electric seats five; the Chevy Volt seats four.
  • The Volt has a 3.3-kilowatt internal charger; the Ford's is 6.6 kilowatts, helping to close the gap in charging time for its larger battery pack.
  • The Ford has a blue oval badge; the Chevy has a gold bowtie.

2011 Chevrolet Volt test drive, Michigan, October 2010

2011 Chevrolet Volt test drive, Michigan, October 2010

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So leaving out the 2012 Nissan Leaf--which is both cheaper and imported--if you want to buy an American-built electric car, which one would you choose?

And why?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (35)
  1. I will not try to show too much bias for Ford since every car I've owned except two has been a Ford, but looking at the stats, I only see two things that would cause a person to frown at the Focus Electric: (1) They mimicked the Volt in price, which shows a like of intelligence on Ford's part, since it takes a lot less to build an electric than it does a hybrid. (2) Long charging time. Number (2) will change with new battery technology, and (1) will rapidly change as soon as Ford gets their head out of their ... and remember that Ford has always been a car for the mass, and the price should be just a little bit over 20 to 25.

  2. So, the one I would choose since Ford can get 100 MPC, and I never want to stop at another gas station for the rest of my life.... Ford wins "hands down and ten thumbs up".

  3. P.S.. Is Ford still going to throw in a couple of solar panels to offset the price of electricity?

  4. It would have to be the Chevy Volt. Honestly, if the cars are going to be priced the same, the Chevy Volt with the range extender is more of an "all purpose" car.

    This also creates a wide gap between the price of the Mitsubishi "i" and the Focus EV.

  5. Since my daily commute is under 40 miles, the Volt is/was a no brainer, even compared to the Focus Electric at the same price. Over 90% of my driving is electric and I can also go on long trips with the car. Until EV charging infrastructure catches up (and speeds up), why wouldn't you choose to have a range extending engine for the same price?

  6. I guess it all comes down to what purpose the car will be used for. As my primary driver, a pure EV just won't work for me. Despite my best efforts, my wife prefers her Mini Cooper to a pure EV since she travels for work. I waited months for a Volt and gave up when I got 72 hours to decide once it finally came in. I passed in the end because the dealer put a large markup, but I'd still buy or lease one elsewhere and will start looking again this weekend.
    For looks, it's subjective, of course, but the Volt all the way. Great to see Ford, too, and hope the FF EV does great.
    And James, no matter how many times you claim it, EVs are NOT cheaper than hybrids. A one-minute check would confirm that, wouldn't it? What EV is cheaper than a Prius?

  7. Really?! $39,995!! Damn you Ford!! Unless that is the price for the car AND the solar panels you can straight kiss my @$$ good bye. A year and a half waiting to hear the price and this is what you come up with. I'm going outside right now to cuss at my current Ford. I guess the Leaf is for me, even if i'd rather buy American.

  8. The 2011 Nissan Leaf. i leased it, put 10,000 down, paid payments on it for $162.12 a month for 7 months then purchased it outright for $15,864. add it up. that is more than $2,000 less than i paid for my 2010 Prius 4 which was a cash purchase.

  9. I am hugely disappointed in the Ford Focus Electric, both on pricing and on the 23 kW battery size. The Leaf is such a better value, and has heated seats, and the Volt is simply so MUCH more car.
    Ford marketing people must be sitting in a padded cell somewhere listening to each other as Ford zealots and ignoring engineering and economic "reality" with this sales approach. It could have been so much more attractive at around $34,000, since it appears to have less content than the Leaf, but at almost $40k. Yikes !

  10. For most people 35 miles a day is more than enough. Considering you can do your longer weekend trips with the range extender, the Volt wins hands down. I can not believe the Focus Electric was priced so high, the Nissan Leaf will beat it too.

  11. Just based on the differences stated here, I would purchase a Volt over the Focus EV. It is much more versatile and less limiting for most of us.

  12. I am disappointed in the price but sure like the 6.6 kW charger. I'm also glad that we have another BEV for people to choose from.

  13. While I favor fords, the electric only range is not enough for my needs. Chevy Volts range extender gas engine makes the car more practical for my needs, living in a rural area.

  14. I really wanted to be excited about the Focus EV ... and I truly USED to be. The technology features are amazing, the range is well within reason, and I'm certain the handling will be fine. It's just the price that's offsetting; I truly was disappointed at the price point. At this point in the game it seems the Nissan is the only car company who understands that price is the difference between mass adoption and niche market.

  15. I must agree with the majority of the comments-I was excited about the Focus EV, but the price is way to steep. Mass produced EV's are new and any new technology is initially going to cost more. I paid $1100 for my first VCR; $1000.00 for my first cell phone and $3000.00 for my first computer...Patience and the price will eventually drop...Compared to an "ICE" powered vehicle, there are fewer parts required to create an EV (a battery, a controller & an electric motor), so ultimately it's got to cost less to manufacture and sell an EV. Suffice to say, the Focus EV is way over priced. I will now compare price & features of the Leaf & Mitsubishi i; although I'm a die hard EV purist, you get more car for the $ with the Volt............

  16. Some Math:

    ASSUMPTIONS: 15K miles/ year, 50 mile/day commute, $4.00 for regular gas, $4.30 for premium, which the Volt requires. NOTE: projections are for a 3 year average so estimate is slightly higher than today's price.

    - Fuel Expense in a car that gets 24MPG (my previous car): $2500/year $208/month
    - Fuel Expense for My Volt (2/3rd Electric, 1/3rd Gas): $1066/year (including electricity) or $89/month.. a 57% decrease in fuel costs.
    - Estimated Fuel Expense for the Ford (all electric): $720/year or $60/month... a 71% decrease.

    BOTTOM LINE: Is $29/month worth:
    - Having no range anxiety?
    - Being to able to drive 100s miles w/out stopping?
    - Getting a distinct "purpose built car" v. modification of another car?

  17. Wrong math - It's a lot more than $29 a month disparity. I don't know how much you pay for electricity, but EVs get about 4 miles/kWh (I'm speaking from experience here having owned a Leaf for 6 months, 6000 miles). That's 313 kWh per month. The average price for electricity in the US is 11.6 cents per kWh. So the Focus will cost $36/month or $432 per year. Plus, you'll easily spend $600 more a year on maintenance for the Volt compared to an electric car. The Volt still has a gasoline engine and everything that entails. The true disparity between a Volt and FFE is more like $900 a year.

  18. Interesting analysis. I am not sure about the average cost.

    I was given a very nice option for my Volt with DTE energy. Either $40 flat rate or $0.08/kWh day and $0.18/kWh evenings. Realistically, the Focus will cost more in electricity for me. I figure about 50% more since I would have about 50% electric miles with it (I would use it 100% on electricity v. 67%).

    It looks like I may drive more than you that may cause the discrepancy. Also in my Volt the metered amount is usually about 12.5kWh for a full charge (giving me 31-40mile range, in Mich.). However, the car indicates about 10.5kWh. I am assuming this is simply due to inefficiencies in transferring the power to the battery.

    I would be interested to read your rebuttal. Thanks.

  19. Ford enthusiasts will like to have this option to buy an EV. Others will choose the Volt or LEAF.

    Ford only has this car because it wants the Green cred. They are not seriously interested in getting into the EV business. The Transit EV is converted by Azure Dynamics. The Focus EV was designed by Magna, and Magna supplies the parts for the conversion. This makes their costs higher, so they plan on 20k cars/year.

  20. The Volt, no contestWe are a two person/two car family, and the Focus would not be in the running. If it had 160m range maybe, but even the Leaf at 4K lower had that range it would not viable. The difference between 37m and 60m on EV is not worth the range limitation. My daily commute is

  21. I am ordering my Chevy Volt today. I have two houses, one for seven months in the Summer (Apr-Oct, Reno, NV) and one for the Winter (Nov-Mar, Cathedral City, CA). I have been waiting for the Ford announcement since I first heard of it the first week of January 2011.

    My reasons for voting for the Chevy Volt are:

    1. The Ford is too expensive for what you get. It would have to be at least $4,000 cheaper then the Volt as the Ford would have to be shipped between homes whereas the Volt could be driven.

    2. The closest certified Ford Focus Electric dealer is 94 miles away from my Winter home whereas the closet Chevy Volt dealer is less the five miles away.

    3. The Ford dealer in Reno says he will not be carrying the Ford Focus Electric.

  22. [i]The Ford has a [b]blue oval badge[/b]; the Chevy has a gold bowtie.[/i]

    wonder where they got that idea. i am confused. there is so many mis-steps here i really have to question Ford's commitment to the technology.

    Priced too high (did not learn anything from the Volt?)
    no quick charge (6.6 KW charger DOES NOT address that. so what if i am done charging overnight at 1 am instead of 4 am!!)

    unreal. totally unreal. Ford has postured up to this point, but now the true colors are revealed

  23. Tired of people saying the price is too high. Price will stay high until we get higher adoption rates and economy of scale + maturation of the battery industry. EVs are expensive right now. Get over it. Lease and enjoy or keep pumping gas.

  24. @David Laur and so many others. Exactly what did you expect the FFE to cost??? I've written $38k-$40k dozens of times in the last two years on forums and most articles have predicted very similar numbers.
    And David, how exactly do you know how many Volts will sell since it's still not for sale in 86% of the country?
    Always amusing to see people with no clue about production and development costs complain about costs that knowledgeable people have long expected. EVS cost, and will continue to cost, FAR more than ICE vehicles. Many parts are made in very low volumes, doubling or tripling the cost for even basic items. Development costs are much higher, etc...
    But, of course, every consumer knows exactly what EVs should cost. Reality/half.

  25. I'll also ask a simple question for those who seem, without any basis in reality, to think the FFE is priced too high; if it were your money, would you rather sell 20k at a 10k each loss or 40k at a 20k loss? Seems a no-brainer to me while EVs are still far from profitable.
    But what would I know, I just work in the industry on many of these vehicles? Those of you who have never worked in the industry, much less developed this technology, seem to know so much about what others should do with their money.
    Kudos to Ford for having the common sense to limit the volumes and keep the losses to a minimum while it joins others in working to improve the technology and eventually bring down the cost.
    Nah, easier to just say "should be $20k." Fail.

  26. I have had a 2002 RAV4-EV for the past 9& 1/2 years. I paid 43 grand for it but had a 9K rebate. Of the 14 cars I have owned in my 71 years, it is my favorite. It cost nothing to own except for tires breaks and a once every 5 years the air conditioning needs to be recharged. Any of these vehicles will cost far less to own than any gas car. I have test driven the "Volt" and found it too small for a 5'11" person. I have also test driven the "Leaf" and found it excellent in size and operation. Battery technology is improving and any of these electric cars are good for anyone who primarily needs a car for local use. You can rent a gas car for longer trips.

  27. Volt is too small? I'm 6'1" and 260 (ok, maybe 270) and I drive a Volt every day. What up with a 5'11" person thinking it's too small? (Compared to a RAV?) Did you forget to put the seat back and adjust the steering wheel up out of the way?

  28. I'm 6'4", 235 and drive a Volt every day. The Volt may have little leg room in the back and not sit 5, but it is certainly not too small for big drivers.

  29. The Volt is superior because there is no range anxiety. The Volt is an electric car most of the time with the benefit or option of gas some of the time...


  30. The Volt is superior if you need the extra range. If you are planning to use the car as a commuting car and can live with the shorter range of a pure EV, it is not superior. You will spend more over its lifecycle with the Volt for maintenance. It will require maintenance for both the electric and combustion engine drives. Electric cars are virtually maintenance free. I own a Leaf, and the recommended service schedule is as follows: (a) every six months, rotate the tires, (b) every year, replace the brake fluid, (c) every eight years, replace the A/C coolant. That's it.

  31. the price of both are too high. i don't like buying gas. i normally drive under 100 miles and since i have a hybrid already and understand the manner in which you need to drive an electric, i would buy the Ford. better for the pocket book and mother earth.

  32. Neither, I'll buy a Leaf. Oh wait, I already have. Too late Ford.

  33. make a wind turbine to charge when driving

  34. What everyone is missing is the biggest issue of all, barely alluded to in the comments. Has anyone checked the hybrid used cars out there? Duh! A hybrid has twice as much technology, and to an engineer that means four times the chance of of repairs over the life of the vehicle. An EV, like the Ford does not have the myriad of parts needed for the infernal commotion engine, the number of parts of an EV compared to a simple infernal commotion vehicle is half, so it is only 25% that of a a hybrid. A hybrid in five years is worthless, no one in their right mind would buy one. You cannot get extended maintenance on one. An EV will be looked at as almost new for the first ten years, only need to replace the battery pack.

  35. Okay here is the Skinny I had a Prius for a couple of years. It averaged 50 mpg complete hybrid no plug-in. It held its value great was overed 1000 more than I payed for from the dealer 6 months after I bought it. Okay now I own a Volt this car does Rock I'm very pleased. I recommend always take the scenic route traffic lights aren't a problem. The battery power goes down slower on city driving under 50! The car is great 7500 tax credit federal gov. with a free charging system 240 volt charging system from the eco program and 2500 cash back from the state of Tn!. Puts and average of about .7 cents to charge per kwh used and the battery takes about 16 kwh to charge. Over 1500 miles I've only filled up once gas on-board generator $22.00.

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