Recently, I had the opportunity to drive the pre-production Ford Focus Electric (more here). It was quite the experience as I haven’t driven a fully electric care before, nor have I really had all the much experience with pre-production vehicles. My expectation was that it might be a little rough, but it wasn’t…in fact it was quite well put together. During my time with the Ford representatives and their PR people it was interesting to talk them about the range estimates on the Ford Focus Electric. Their target is 100 miles, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can go 100 miles in every kind of condition.

The thing with electric powertrains is that it is all about efficiency, so it holds that if you are put in a situation that taxes the power source then you won’t go as far on a charge. During our discussion I made the comment that I would love to have a vehicle like the Ford Focus Electric to make my commute to and from work at a roundtrip of 80 miles a day. This is where things with electric cars get a little sticky. The current thought is that an electric vehicle probably wouldn’t be able to make the full 100 mile range at a steady highway speed due to the constant power draw, changes in grades and lack of regenerative braking. Was that a little disappointing…yes, but the conversation that came from that was enlightening.

Like buying a sports car, an electric vehicle isn’t going to fit everyone. Instead the car is going to have to mess with your current lifestyle. So for the people who drive within the city and fit the national average of driving around 40 miles a day, the Ford Focus Electric will most likely be a good fit on a daily basis. However, Ford is trying to educate the media, consumers and really anyone who will take a moment to listen that they are working on products that are proven before they release them to the public. So when you go to look at an electric car they will have the knowledge to say, ‘yes, this car will fit your lifestyle’ or ‘maybe you want to look at the Fusion hybrid or this plug-in hybrid over here.’

The bottom line—if a commuter is someone that drives a short distance, to work and back, then electrics might not be a bad fit. If a commuter is someone who drives long distances, like I do, then they probably aren’t right for electric car yet. However, this could drive incentives for building managers to install quick charge stations that would allow people to “fill up” before they head home in their zero emissions vehicle. Talk about the wave of the future.