Ford has just announced that it has chosen telecoms giant AT&T to provide wireless connectivity to its new range of electric and plug-in cars, enabling drivers of its 2012 Ford Focus electric car to remotely interact with their car via an Internet portal or their smart phone. 

Just like owners of the 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevrolet Volt, the remote connection to the 2012 Ford Focus will enable users to check on their car’s state of charge, pre-air condition the car and even schedule charging. 

In addition, the car’s permanent Internet connection means drivers get real-time traffic information powered by MapQuest, eventually integrating with charging networks to show which charging points are available near the car or its destination. 

Sounds good on paper. But there’s a little problem: AT&T hasn’t got the best reputation for reliable cellphone coverage in large metropolitan areas like New York City or San Francisco.  

Apple iPhone

Apple iPhone

Is range anxiety just about to get replaced by signal anxiety?

As many iPhone owners can testify, coverage in these areas is so poor that in some cases it is impossible to use Apple’s smart phone to make a telephone call on the AT&T network. 

In fact, the problem became so problematic in 2009 that AT&T made an app allowing customers to report when their AT&T iPhone experience was substandard. 

Naturally, not every Ford Focus Electric owner is going to live in California or New York, but given the current demographics of electric car early adopters and the way in which the Ford Focus is being marketed we’re pretty sure the car will receive more interest from suburbanites than those in more rural areas. 

There you have it. A mainstream electric car targeted at commuting suburbanites and city-dwellers but connected to the Internet by a cellphone network known to have connectivity issues in those same cities. Hardly ideal.

Of course, a car can have a much larger receiver than a humble cellphone, so problems with signal strength may not present themselves quite as markedly as with the iPhone. 

Let’s hope we’re right.