Ford charges up Focus EV for 2013

  • 09-Sep-2011 09:27 EDT
2012 Focus EV Lead Image.jpg

For the 2013 Focus Electric, Ford is collaborating with SunPower to offer an optional solar-panel system for charging the car at home. The system will be sold through selected Ford dealers and installed by BestBuy's Geek Squad.

Ford’s Global C1 platform is rapidly turning into one of the industry’s most flexible and prolific vehicle architectures. By the middle of next year, the automaker will have doubled its production of C-segment vehicles from the approximately one million units built in 2009. The Focus nameplate will represent the largest chunk of those two million vehicles, its annual production volumes expected to exceed 850,000 units globally, according to IHS Automotive.

Electric-vehicle advocates might hope that even a fraction of Focus’s global scale will rub off on the Focus Electric model that’s due to enter production next spring at the Wayne, MI, assembly plant. The 2013-model battery-electric, five-door hatchback is among five electrified vehicles the automaker is launching in North America next year and in Europe by 2013.

The first of the C1-based quintet was the Transit Connect Electric panel van, introduced last year. Its powertrain was engineered primarily by Azure Dynamics.

Following the Focus EV will be two variants of the C-Max wagon—a conventional hybrid powered by Ford’s second-generation lithium-ion battery and the C-Max Energi, Ford’s first plug-in hybrid. The “Electrified Five” illustrate Ford’s strategy to spin a range of alternative-propulsion vehicles from a common platform, albeit one using a variety of powertrain configurations.

Liquid-heated battery pack

Ford’s dedicated electrified-vehicle development group, led by Sherif Marakby, Director of Electrification Programs and Engineering, collaborated with Magna E-Car on the Focus EV’s propulsion system and vehicle integration. Magna is supplying the 100-kW ac traction motor, motor controller, battery pack, and single-speed gearbox.

The Focus EV’s permanent-magnet motor will be rated at 92 kW and 181 lb•ft (246 N•m). Power to the electric machine is supplied by a pair of lithium-ion battery packs mounted underneath and behind the rear-seat bulkhead.

Compared with the conventional Focus, the electric model’s body structure is changed in some areas to accommodate the powertrain and energy storage. A major alteration is the floorpan stamping and the cabin-to-trunk bulkhead, where the battery pack is located.

Compact Power Inc., the U.S. automotive battery arm of South Korea’s LG Chem, will supply the Focus’s nickel-cobalt-manganese-based, prismatic-type lithium cells from its new plant in Holland, MI. Last August, LG Chem and General Motors agreed to collaborate on future electrified vehicle development—the announcement coming one day after Ford and Toyota launched a venture to co-develop hybrid transmissions for light trucks.

Ford engineers opted for active liquid-cooled and -heated thermal management for the battery packs. The system heats or chills a coolant before pumping it through the battery cooling system. This loop regulates temperature throughout the system against external conditions. On a hot day, the cooled liquid absorbs heat from the battery pack, dispersing it through a heat exchanger before pumping it through the chiller again.

When ambient temperature is lower, the heated liquid warms the batteries, progressively bringing the system’s temperature to a level that allows it to efficiently accept charge energy and provide enough discharge power for expected vehicle performance.

“A liquid-heated battery can accept a charge faster from the regenerative braking, essentially providing longer range for the customer in real-world, cold weather conditions,” explained Marakby. “And since acceleration in an EV comes from the power available in the battery, the customer will have more power available if the battery is warmer,” he told AEI

The use of active liquid heating also enables Focus Electric owners to automatically precondition battery-pack temperature during daily recharging, as is capable with the Chevrolet Volt. While the vehicle is plugged in to the power grid, the vehicle system will be able to warm up the battery on cold days.

As long as the vehicle is plugged in—even when parked on cold days—the system will warm up the battery. “Customers won’t have to wait for the car to warm up,” he said.

With 23 kW·h of total rated power available, and pushing nearly 3700 lb (1680 kg) of curb mass—about 750 lb (340 kg) heavier than the conventional Focus five-door sedan—the Focus EV’s performance is not expected to pose a threat to Boss 302 Mustangs in terms of outright performance. Ford claims a top speed of 84 mph (136 km/h). To compensate for the EV’s additional intrinsic mass, engineers have recalibrated the Focus’s suspension and added lightweight cast-aluminum road wheels.

The electric Focus will be assembled on the same line as hybrid and conventionally powered versions of the Focus and the 2012 C-Max.

Quick-charging enabler

A front end that’s designed to be more aerodynamic than the conventional Focus, low-rolling-resistance tires, and LED taillamps are other energy-saving technologies on the vehicle. According to Derrick Kuzak, Group Vice President of Product Development, the Focus EV will offer energy efficiency superior to that of the Chevrolet Volt (on a mile-per-gallon equivalent). It will also offer “competitive” efficiency vs. other battery EVs including the Nissan Leaf. (Kuzak was referencing the 2011 versions of both competitors’ vehicles).

Recharging the Focus’s battery pack to a full state of charge will require approximately half the charge time (three hours in moderate ambient temperatures, using a 240-V SAE J1772 Class 2 charging station) of that claimed by Nissan for its 2011 Leaf, using a similar 240-V setup, Marakby told AEI. He expects a typical time to charge the Focus to a “full” state of charge using a 120-V source will be 18-20 hours.

The key enabler to the rapid charging is the Focus Electric’s standard, onboard, 6.6-kW dc charger. (By comparison, Volt and Leaf both use 3-4-kW chargers.) The charger is a plug-in type rather than hard wired, so it can be taken along if the Focus owner changes residences.

According to Marakby, Ford’s onboard controller expertise helped enable development of the fast-charging feature.

A 120-V convenience cord, its ergonomically designed plug supplied by Yazaki, will be standard equipment on U.S. model vehicles. Ford will offer a 240-V wall-mount home charging station. With a $1500 suggested retail price, the station will be offered exclusively through the Best Buy electronics store chain and installed by its Geek Squad technicians.

New Microsoft app for EVs

Focus Electric introduces other new technologies beyond its energy-storage and propulsion systems. There’s a Microsoft smart phone application called MyFord Mobile (similar to Chevrolet’s MyVolt app) that enables off-board constant contact with the car’s power system via a smart phone or web-based interface.

Ford engineers claim it can perform several power management functions remotely, monitor the car’s state of charge and range, and remotely program charge settings.

MyFord Mobile also allows the owner to program the vehicle to use electricity from the grid to actively heat or cool the battery and cabin while plugged in, rather than off the battery. Similar to OnStar’s remote app, users can also locate the vehicle with GPS, remotely start it, and remotely lock and unlock the doors.

Focus Electric’s MyView features vehicle information including battery state of charge, electrical demands of the A/C, and other systems that can impact driving range.

Marakby also noted a “brake score” readout that provides feedback on how the driver’s use of regenerative braking impacts the battery energy available.

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