Could Ford become the Dell of electric vehicles?

Ford is on track for the full US launch of its Ford Focus Electric next month, after successfully delivering the first wave of vehicles to commercial partners, such as Google, Florida Power and Light and Microsoft, late last year.

Speaking to BusinessGreen on the sidelines of the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, Mike Tinskey, director of vehicle electrification at the auto giant, said the company had received plenty of pre-orders for the car ahead of its public launch in April, although he declined to reveal a precise number.

He added that the firm was planning to “de-risk” the rollout of the new model by using an innovative “build-to-order” similar to that pioneered by PC manufacturer Dell.

Under the model, Ford dealers across the US will boast one demonstration vehicle and customers will then be able to order the car and receive their model within around four to six weeks.

“We’ve taken a different approach to other EV manufacturers in that we are producing the Focus EV on the same production line as the gas, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions,” he explained. “There are simply too many variables impacting the market that we have no control over, so this gives us real flexibility. If the price of crude rises and demand for EVs climbs we can produce more EVs and fewer gas vehicles.”

The company is initially planning to roll out the Focus Electric to dealers in New York, New Jersey and California, ahead of a nationwide rollout over the summer and autumn. A European launch is also slated for later this year.

The car boasts a similar range and top speed to other electric cars in the market, covering around 100 miles on a full charge and reaching speeds of up to 84 miles per hour.

However, Tinskey argued the car would offer faster charge-up times than alternatives such as the Nissan Leaf, delivering a full charge in just over three hours. “If you are just going to be somewhere for an hour you can charge the car up and get another 30 miles of range,” he said.

Ford has also entered into a number of innovative partnerships to support the launch of the Focus Electric.

Tinskey said the company would be working with solar firm SunPower to offer a solar array alongside the car that will provide enough electricity to drive 15,000 miles a year. Dubbed “Drive Green for Life”, the system will be priced at less than $10,000 and boast a 25-year warranty.

In addition, Ford has worked with Microsoft to develop a mobile app that allows users to access data on the car’s battery, local recharging networks, and the driver’s performance.

Tinskey said the two companies had also developed a system known as “Value Charging” whereby Microsoft had developed a database containing information on energy tariffs across the US. “You will be able to tap in your zip code and it will work out the cheapest time to charge the car so you get the best overnight tariffs,” he explained, adding that a driver in San Francisco charging the car overnight could drive 100 miles for around $1.

You can return to the main Market News page, or press the Back button on your browser.