Last week I took a spin in the Ford Focus Electric pre-production vehicle, the very same one from Jay Leno’s Green Car Challenge. If you saw my Driven review, I was quite impressed with how well put together the vehicle was, but I was curious about a couple of things. Good thing we had Julie D’Annunzio, Global Electrified Fleet and Integration Engineer, Ford Motor Company, on hand to answer my questions. The big topic besides range and availability was safety. So I put it out there, do electrical vehicles need additional safety considerations or is it business as usual?

The resounding answer from D’Annunzio was yes they are safe, but more importantly there are additional safety considerations that Ford is taking into account when the design their mass-market electric vehicles. As I mentioned in my drive review, there is a battery cell in the trunk area of the Focus Electric and my understanding is that there will continue to be on in the production model since Ford is opting to use a global platform instead of a ground up platform like the 2011 Nissan Leaf. However, that doesn’t mean they are compromising safety; Ford engineers have built into the design of the electric additional containment areas or safety cages to keep all occupants out of harms way, but to also prevent any environmental impacts that might be caused when a battery takes an impact in a collision.

“The scariest thing to me is thinking about the people who convert their cars to electrics or hybrids without any thought to the safety concerns that come with the additional batteries and weight, not to mention what it does to the handling characteristics of the vehicle,” D’Annunzio said during our discussion about the Ford Focus Electric. “Ford is making sure that they know the answers to consumers questions before they release a production vehicle.” It is a good point she makes, do converted vehicles meet the same safety criteria of a vehicle produced by one of the largest American automobile corporations? Judging from some of the YouTube videos I have seen, probably not.

Until next time, make sure you check out my Ford Focus Electric Driven report and for a comparison, check out the MINI-E Driven report at the MTTS2010 MINIcross event.