One of the advantages of running a successful online publication like Auto Trends Magazine is that I get to preview and drive numerous vehicles before or just as they hit the market. A recent call from the Ford Motor Company arranged for my drive of the 2012 battery electric version of the Ford Focus, a compact car slated to go on sale summer 2011.

It’s Electric!

This vehicle will be important for two big reasons: it will replace the current American spec model with the European derived one, offering a better-looking, more fuel efficient and updated package. It will also allow customers to buy an electric car if they choose to do so, though the gas version producing 40 mpg on the highway may be sufficient for most drivers.

What was so special about the 2012 Focus BEV? Well, it was the same car produced for the Jay Leno Show as part of the TV personality’s bid to showcase green cars. This specially developed prototype is based on the Focus SVT, a car sold in Europe and considered by some to be the sportiest and fastest compact car on the market.

But, that was just the exterior of the vehicle — underneath the Focus BEV featured an honest to goodness lithium-ion battery pack, exactly like the one that will be found in production versions of this car. This particular prototype functioned just as well as a production car, with none of the customary squeaks, rattles and unfinished compartments apparent.

Recaro Seats

Opening up the door and sliding into the driver’s seat was a thrill. Recaro seats were standard although Ford hasn’t said whether production models will offer this option or the beautiful exterior paint scheme. Remember, this was a “show” car meant to appear on Leno’s show and nothing more. Still, the seats were fabulous, setting the tone for my drive.

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The Ford Focus BEV has a push button start which means all you have to do is press on a button and the car comes to life. No roar of the engine to tell you that the car is running, but the dashboard lights up, telling you to go ahead and shift into gear.

Quietly, I pulled out of the parking space at North Carolina State University and proceeded to wind my way through the parking lot and onto local roads. This was a limited drive — covering two huge blocks, with the total trip less than a mile long. Yet, it was long enough for me to gain an appreciation for quiet driving. Making no noise seemed odd at first — even the tires were among the quietest I’ve ever ridden upon.

Raw Power

Heading back into the lot got me thinking — electric cars offer plenty of torque. Naturally, I stepped on the accelerator pedal and the car suddenly zoomed forward without hesitation. Yes, this car has power and plenty of it — I didn’t miss the internal combustion engine one bit.

A preview of a car is just that — a short introduction to a particular model. Certainly, a longer drive over several hours, preferably days would be best and that time will come next year. Meanwhile, the Focus BEV is a promising vehicle, one of many all new electric cars hitting the market in 2011.

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