EV Battle: Focus Electric Vs. Model S

Ford (NYSE: F  ) is showing the power of the big auto machine this week with the official rollout of the Focus Electric at the North American International Auto Show. The Focus will allegedly charge faster than competitors and be priced similar to the "average" electric vehicle.

Let's take a look and see how Ford's Focus stacks up against upstart Tesla's (Nasdaq: TSLA  ) Model S when it's released.

Ford's advantage

  • Ford is tooling up to make gasoline-only, hybrid and all-electric vehicles on the same assembly lines. This greatly reduces the risk of a product failure and gives Ford the chance to spread engineering resources across multiple platforms.
  • The Focus Electric is expected to launch in 2011, likely six months ahead of the Model S. Thanks to its Roadster, Tesla is already enjoying a first mover advantage, along with Nissan's Leaf and the uniquely powered Chevy Volt by General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) . Will the Model S be old news by the time it launches or equivalent to bringing a BMW to a Chrysler showroom?
  • It's all about the Benjamins. Ford isn't releasing pricing details yet but did say it would be "competitive with other battery electric vehicles." The Nissan Leaf starts at $32,800 and the Volt at $41,000 so I'm assuming the Focus Electric will be in that range, lower than the $57,900 for a Model S.
  • It's Ford, silly. Tesla may have a big name among enthusiasts and investors, but the average Joe who will be buying electric vehicles has a longer history with Ford. Tesla may build some credibility between now and 2012, but a launch to the masses is still uncharted territory.

Tesla's advantage

  • Tesla has sold itself with sex appeal, and the Model S will be no different. The Focus Electric is taking a step in the right direction, looking less like a cheap compact, but the Model S definitely wins this battle.
  • The Model S is expected to get 160 miles per charge versus the 100 or so miles on the Focus Electric. Tesla will also offer upgrades for up to a 300-mile range, according to Peter Rawlinson, vice president of vehicle engineering at Tesla.
  • Ford is pushing its fast-charging car, but if the super-fast charger that Tesla has in development becomes a reality, that would give a big leg up to the Model S.

From a technical and design standpoint the Model S has the clear advantage in this Fool's opinion. With that said, that big blue oval is looming on the horizon. And if consumers are more comfortable going with an iconic American brand at a lower price, the advantage could swing back to Ford.

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Fool contributor Travis Hoium does not own an electric vehicle or have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

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Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2011, at 7:53 PM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    One more advantage for Ford: You'll be able to actually buy one in 2012.

    I know I beat this drum mercilessly, but Tesla will be astonishingly lucky if the Model S goes into production before 2013, and the chances of it selling for $58K are 0.0000000000.

    Tesla - Tomorrow's Vaporware Today.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2011, at 5:07 AM, agnius101 wrote:

    The comparison is not reasonable. It is the same like compare Nokia and iPhone phones. Nokia started developing mobile phones long time ago while Apple released it few years ago. And still Apple is waaay ahead of Nokia. Model S is a dream car - it could be delivered even in 2014 and it still be more desired then Ford focus.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2011, at 7:49 AM, Teslafan81 wrote:

    I would say the advantage for FORD in name recognition is NOT a good thing. When I think of FORD I think "FOUND ON ROAD DEAD". I think the apple verse nokia comparison is apt.

    You also have to consider the "quality" or cost savings. Tesla is building the cars to last a long time compared to other manufacturers (aluminum instead of steel frames). You also have to consider legacy systems. Tesla proves it knows how to build electric cars, Ford has not.

    Disclosure- Yes I do have a Model S reservation, and I have owned Ford made cars, and my experience with those made me never want to buy a Ford made car again

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2011, at 11:02 AM, TMFFlushDraw wrote:

    @agnius101

    I understand that they aren't perfect comparables but Focus Electric is the best competition I've seen yet (Fisker maybe, but that's another startup).

    To say the iPhone doesn't get competition from Nokia or Android phones, which are both inferior products (in my opinion) is just wrong. Android now has more phones on the market and Apple had a huge head start.

    As for Nokia, I think selling 260,000 smartphones a day should tell you that they're very real competition for the iPhone.

    http://www.mobilecrunch.com/2010/09/14/nokia-sells-260000-sm...

    Travis Hoium

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2011, at 2:13 PM, nguyen77478 wrote:

    I would love to own a model S. But living in Texas as in most of America and the world, there is not a Tesla dealer nearby. There is no way I am willing to spend that amount of money on a first generation model without the dealer support. Unfortunately, Tesla do not have the volume to support a big enough dealer network.

    Ford on the other hand, has the network already in place. They are being very cautious about the demands for electric cars. But, I am hoping they will be pleasantly surprised. Unlike Tesla, they can very quickly build more as demand dictates.

    My next car will probably be the electric Focus with a fast charge home station. Since I can't have a model S, load my Focus up with all the options.

    The leaf to me is ugly. The Volt already took my money via the government. They are not getting anymore. The Model S may be my future car once they establish a dealer nearby.

  • Report this Comment On January 16, 2011, at 3:14 PM, PoundMutt wrote:

    "•The Model S is expected to get 160 miles per charge versus the 100 or so miles on the Focus Electric."

    What will those ranges be at 15 degrees F in the Michigan winter?

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