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

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

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.