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Old 07-03-2012, 05:38 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Focus on choice gas or electric

Big Valley Ford General Manager Steve Kubitz shows the charging port of an all-electric Ford Focus at dealership's Stockton Auto Mall location.

By Reed Fujii
Record Staff Writer
July 02, 2012 12:00 AM
STOCKTON - Big Valley Ford in Stockton is among the first 67 dealers in the nation certified to offer Ford Motor Co.'s first all-electric car, the 2012 Focus Electric.
To earn that standing, the dealership had to agree to install charging stations and train service technicians and sales personnel on all the ins and outs of these electric vehicles.
But it's not all that unusual for the dealership, which previously made a major commitment to offering natural gas-fueled commercial trucks in this region.
"That's the direction you're going to see: alternative-fuel vehicles as a major part of the infrastructure of transportation," said Steve Kubitz, Big Valley's general manager.
Owner Paul J. Umdenstock said the addition of the Focus Electric is just part of larger alternative-fuel strategy for his dealership.
Last week, the dealer had two new electric sedans on display, appearing much like their gas-guzzling counterparts.
"This is not some slapped-together-so-you-can-feel-good-about-the-environment (vehicle). It's a nice car," Kubitz said.
Umdenstock said he'd taken the car around town, out to a restaurant and on other short trips. "It's just an absolute dream to drive," he said.
But the Focus, like other electric vehicles, is somewhat limited in range.
With its lithium-ion batteries fully charged, the car has a 76-mile range if all the accessories - such as air conditioning, heating and entertainment system - are switched off. Under more typical conditions, it can be expected to go 55 to 60 miles between charges.
So the electric Focus is most suitable as a second car to be used on short commutes and around-town trips.
However, that may change, as many major retailers have announced plans to install public charging stations, Kubitz said.
"You're going to be able to go to the mall and get it charged and do your shopping," Kubitz said.
And that's already true in Stockton, if your destination is the Walgreens at 7850 West Lane, which features a 24-hour public charging station.
The federal Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center - - lists that drugstore and Stockton Nissan, at 3077 E. Hammer Lane, as two of the more than 1,000 public charging stations now in California. Big Valley's chargers are for its customers.
Electric cars most usually tap home charging stations. Ford directs its customers to Best Buy, but other major retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe's and also offer the devices. Prices typically run from $800 to $1,000.
The electric Focus drives very much like a conventional vehicle.
"There's actually a lot more drivability and pickup than you'd expect in an electric vehicle," said Joseph Brightenstine, a Big Valley sales agent familiar with the car. "It has just as much pep as the gas Focus would have."
Most apparent for most motorists is the lack of engine noise. The air-conditioning fan and tire road noise were the loudest sounds evident on a recent demonstration drive.
The vehicle operating display constantly shows its remaining range, which may actually increase depending on how the car is driven. The display shows off small butterfly symbols if the driver's actions boost efficiency, thus increasing overall mileage.
The butterflies, which can be switched off if desired, were inspired by the so-called butterfly effect, Brightenstine explained. "One small change can come back tenfold in other ways."
The dealership's two display models last week both carried sticker prices of about $41,000. Similarly equipped gasoline vehicles would probably be around $24,000 to $25,000, Brightenstine said.
There are government incentives to offset part of those costs. For individuals, there's a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $2,500 rebate from the Center for Sustainable Energy.
For public agencies, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is offering a $20,000 incentive on up to five cars.
And, of course, electric vehicle owners save on their fuel bills.
According to the window sticker, the Focus will use about $600 a year worth of electricity if driven 15,000 miles. Its EPA mileage rating is 110 mpg equivalent in the city and 105 mpge combined, based on the EPA formula in which 33.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity is equal to a gallon of gas.
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