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Ford Focus Electric conquers cold climates with liquid-heated batteries

Crave can barely function on a cold morning without a hot cup of tea. Neither, it seems, can electric cars, but Ford has a new system to cosy up your batteries when it's chilly out.

Rory Reid

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Crave can barely function on a wintry morning without a hot cup of tea. Neither, it seems, can electric cars, whose batteries are severely affected by extreme temperatures. Ford's come up with a relatively simple solution for this, however -- it will install a liquid heating system that warms the batteries of its forthcoming Ford Focus Electric.

If you've ever tried to start a janky old car on a freezing winter's day, you'll appreciate the havoc cold can cause on batteries. The problem stems from the fact the chemical reactions inside a battery occur more slowly in the cold. As a result, less current is produced, resulting in dim torches, unreliable mobile phones and electric cars that travel at a relative snails pace.

Ford's solution for the Focus Electric is an active temperature-preconditioning system that warms or cools the batteries before charging and driving. While the car is connected to a mains outlet, power is used to heat water, which in turn warms the batteries. On cold days, the system works in reverse, cooling the water to absorb heat before dispersing it through a radiator.

This process gradually brings the system's temperature to a level that allows it to efficiently accept charge and provide enough discharge power to maintain strong driving performance.

The Ford Focus Electric uses a 23kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which is expected to provide 100 miles of range. The car also features a 6.6kW onboard charger, which provides twice the power of the unit featured on many of its rivals, including the Nissan Leaf. As a result, the Focus Electric can be fully charged in under 4 hours -- significantly less than the 7 hours or so required by its competitors.

The car is driven by a 100kW AC motor, which provides 181lb-ft of torque and is powerful enough to achieve a top speed of 84mph. Its total range on a single charge is expected to be approximately 100 miles.

The Ford Focus Electric will go on sale in the US later this year and in Europe in 2012.

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