February 10, 2011
Ford Expects Less Maintenance For Electric Focus

You won't have to replace many parts in a pure electric car because they won't be there: (note to the wits in the comment: the battery mentioned in this list is a lead acid battery that has a much shorter life than the lithium ion batteries in an EV)

Here are the top 25 items that usually require inspection, maintenance or replacement during the 10-year, 150,000-mile life of a conventional car that the driver of a Ford Focus Electric will never have to worry about:

Air filter
Fuel filter
Fuel injectors/fuel pump
Motor mounts
Motor oil
Oil filter
O2 sensors
Power steering fluid
Radiator hose, lower
Radiator hose, upper
Serpentine belt
Spark plugs
Spark plug wires
Timing belt
Transmission adjustment (automatics)
Transmission filter (automatics)
Transmission fluid or oil
Water pump

Things you do not use can not cause you to break down. How much have you spent on items like the above in the last 10 years? With an electric car you'll save time and experience fewer disruptions from your daily routine due to breakdowns. If and when battery costs fall electric cars will become attractive to people who want fewer life maintenance tasks (that would be me).

You will still need to worry about tires and windshield washer fluid.

  • Ford Focus Electric’s fewer moving mechanical parts nearly eliminates scheduled maintenance, saving drivers time and money
  • No oil changes means Focus Electric drivers will save at least $450 and 7.5 hours over the life of the car
  • Checking the tire pressure and filling the windshield washer fluid is about all most Focus Electric drivers will need to do

Brakes will not wear out as fast because (I am guessing) much of the deceleration will get captured in regenerative breaking. The wheels will turn generators to recharge batteries when you roll up to a stop sign.

You will spend time plugging in a car and unplugging it. But if you set up your garage to extend a power cable from the ceiling that'll be pretty quick to do.

So when will electric cars become affordable for most car buyers? The cost of electric car batteries might drop by almost two thirds in the next 4 years. Emphasis on might. Time will tell.

According to the Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Office, making lithium-ion batteries today at scale -- in batches of several hundred thousand -- costs about $800 per kWh. Patrick Davis, the office's program manager, and Dave Howell, its team lead for hybrid-electric technology, think the batteries can near $300 by 2015.

To put that in perspective, the Nissan Leaf is expected to use 34 kWh per 100 miles. So then how can the Leaf sell for about $33,000 if the batteries cost about $20k? Nissan selling at a loss? On the bright side, the batteries for a car like the Leaf might cost only $7500 by 2015. But how far down battery costs have to drop before electric cars make sense for you depends heavily on where you live:

Because of the variety of utility rates in the U.S., a 2011 Nissan Leaf that's a bargain to drive in Washington — $28.29 for 1,000 miles — is pricey in Hawaii, where those 1,000 miles would cost $97.21. A conventional car getting 36 mpg would make that trip for the same money. For consumers primarily interested in driving an EV to save money, it's critical to know actual electric rates (and the current cost of gasoline, for comparison purposes) instead of relying on national averages.

It will be interesting to see how Ford prices the electric Focus, what its range will be, and what size battery it will have.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 February 10 10:48 PM  Energy Electric Cars

John Davis said at February 11, 2011 3:29 AM:

So a Ford Electric Focus owner won't ever have to worry about the battery.


Wolf-Dog said at February 11, 2011 3:44 AM:

>To put that in perspective, the Nissan Leaf is expected to use 34 kWh per 100 miles.
>So then how can the Leaf sell for about $33,000 if the batteries cost about $20k?
> Nissan selling at a loss?

Temporarily Nissan might be selling at a loss, but this would be due to the certainty that in the future, with mass production the manufacturing price of an electric car without battery will be significantly lower than a gasoline car. This is because as you said above, the pure electric cars will need a lot less components than gasoline cars. No transmission, no gear box, etc, and easy controls. Just the cheap electric motors (far simpler and easier to manufacture than internal combustion engines),

It is safe to assume that a non-luxury electric car without battery will cost $12.000. Just the battery is the expensive part, but gradually batteries will not only become cheaper but also their range will increase. Note that charging the electric car batteries is not the only thing that will make these vehicles work: battery swapping stations are already being used in Tokyo, for the taxis, exactly as if these were gas stations. It is calculated the if all vehicles were electric, the electric grid would have to be expanded only by 10 %, which is very feasible if we plan to switch to electric cars by 2020. Just a 1 % expansion per year in the electric grid is reasonable. Putting charging pods in every street would cost 1 year of imported oil, which is close to $400 billion, and this is a lot of money, but if we build this charging infrastructure slowly until 2020, then this is certainly feasible by spending only $50 billion per year, not to mention the fact that this would create employment for millions of people for 10 years. Win-win plan. By 2020 it is guaranteed that batteries will be a lot cheaper and much more powerful.

Black Death said at February 11, 2011 8:36 AM:

Interesting discussion. The point about the cost of electricity is important. You say that in Hawaii the cost of electricity for driving a Nissan Leaf 1000 miles is $97.21. That's pretty pricey. Suppose you bought a conventional fuel-efficient gasoline car (say, 33 mpg) there and drove it the same 1000 miles. I checked Honolulu gas prices - currently about $3.55/gallon. So the gasoline car would cost you about $107.57 for fuel. If you drive 12,000 miles per year around Oahu's sunny shores, you will spend $1291 for fuel for the gas vehicle versus $1167 for the electric one, saving $124 per year. Of course, the electric vehicle will cost less for routine maintenance, but eventually the expensive batteries will have to be replaced. In Washington, that same amount of electricity for 12,000 miles would cost $339.48, so the annual savings would be about $950. Big difference.

There are a lot of variables here - such as the cost of oil, electricity, and batteries. It is a pretty safe assumption that electricity costs will not go up too much. Oil will get more expensive, but nobody knows how much. Batteries will get cheaper, but nobody knows how much. As the NYT article points out, savings on large scale battery production will require lots of orders for electric vehicles, but demand for electric vehicles is heavily dependent on battery costs.

One of the points I've not seen addressed very well is the performance of these new electric vehicles. I live in a cold, snowy area of the country, so I drive large, powerful vehicles (pick-ups, SUV's) with AWD or 4WD and all the bells and whistles for getting me through the snow. Plus great heaters. Yes, the gas mileage isn't great, but, compared to being unemployed, it's pretty cheap. Plus, if I'm ever struck by another pick-up or SUV, I feel that my heavy vehicles are about as crash-worthy as they can be. I wonder if electric vehicles will ever be suitable for such purposes, or will their use be mainly in temperate climates such as California. Even cars in sunny Florida will require big-time air conditioning usage. How will electric vehicles work there?

JCee said at February 11, 2011 8:37 AM:

I've a question on these prices to charge your car and haven't found a straight answer yet. Is the price to charge the kWh generation cost or is it the final Total Cost you see on the bill? Example say I pay $100 a months electricity generation cost for X kWh's electricity I would typically also pay a $75 Transmission Fee and a $30 Distribution Fee for a Final Total of $205. So when they give me theses numbers are they REAL Final $ or are just the kWh price thus giving me a artificially Low Ball #. BTW I wont be buying one anytime soon as I live in a region that has extremely cold winters(that kills the battery and range) and commute ~40miles each way to work daily. Unless of course EESTOR's Ultracapacitors work by some miracle.

Fat Man said at February 11, 2011 10:20 AM:

"So then how can the Leaf sell for about $33,000 if the batteries cost about $20k?"

I got the data for the Leaf from the Edmunds.com web site. Here are the basic dimensions:

* Width: 69.7 in.
* Height: 61.0 in.
* Length: 175.0 in.
* Wheel base: 106.3 in.
* EPA interior volume: 113 cu.ft.

The ICE Nissan with the closest dimensions is the Versa Hatchback

* Width: 66.7 in.
* Height: 60.4 in.
* Length: 169.1 in.
* Wheel base: 102.4 in.
* EPA interior volume: 112.5 cu.ft.

How much does it cost? Not much:

MSRP from $13,910

The Sentra, which is larger than the Leaf, and the Versa, in length, height, and width, is MSRP from $15,540. The Versa sedan, which has less interior room than the hatchback, and which comes with a smaller engine, is MSRP from $9,990

Now, let us recall that the most expensive item in an ICE automobile is the drivetrain. My guess would be that the total cost of the Leaf, sans battery is rather less than $5,000, and that Nissan makes money on each one.

Now, here is the news for you electric car fanboiz. Battery costs will not come down much, nor will battery performance improve much. Batteries are a very mature (over 200 years) technology. Remember there is no difference between the batteries in your laptop, and the batteries in a BEV. Li-Ion batteries have been mass produced in large quantities for more than a decade. Oh yes, and it is way below freezing here right now, so the darn things would'nt get me to the grocery store and back, if I owned one, which I won't.

bbartlog said at February 11, 2011 10:51 AM:

Related questions: how big is the effective subsidy from state and federal gasoline taxes, how much revenue will they lose with the switchover, and what are they going to do about it? It is unfortunate that the incentives of government are probably pointing in the wrong direction - they aren't going to want to lose that gas tax money. Knowing governments, however, we can at least hope they will be caught flat-footed rather than manage to sabotage electric vehicle prospects somehow.

Chris T said at February 11, 2011 11:41 AM:

is pricey in Hawaii, where those 1,000 miles would cost $97.21.

Ironically, the state where the range restriction of EVs is the least problem, is also the state that still generates most of its electricity from petroleum.

Rashomon said at February 11, 2011 12:49 PM:

Price per kw/h for a pack has already fallen tremendously. If you're using 18650 cells like Tesla and willing to live with the compromises required, you can probably purchase the cells now for $300-350 kWh. The pack electronics and packaging will add cost, but perhaps only $75-100 kWh, and that may be overstating it. Elon Musk has already said that they anticipate $200 kWh for cells by the time the Tesla S has been in production for a year -- 2013. Note that one of the largest 18650 cell producers -- Panasonic -- has taken a equity stake in Tesla, so Musk probably is reasonably certain of his projections.

Bruce said at February 11, 2011 2:58 PM:

Black Death: "It is a pretty safe assumption that electricity costs will not go up too much."

If alternate energy schemes were not subsidized that may be true. In the UK electricity prices are rising because of feed-in tarrifs associated with Wind Turbines. In California there are 5 levels of electiricty prices that can get you paying over 45cents per kwH.

If you paid the highest rate, 1000 miles in a Leaf would be 340kwH * 45cents = 153$.

Bruce said at February 11, 2011 3:06 PM:

Motor mounts? Are electirc motors just sitting in the car?
No power steering?
No radiator?

But what about cooling the Tesla batteries?

"High-performance driving is possible in even the hottest environments of the world. If the temperature rises above a set threshold, the air conditioning unit sends chilled coolant through the pack. Similar to the radiator fan of ICE-powered cars, the chilled coolant continues to circulate after the motor has been turned off to keep the temperature at an appropriate level. Cooling the pack enables a driver to quickly charge immediately after hard driving in hot climates. Without such a cooling system, recharging in hot weather would be delayed after each drive."


Woozle said at February 11, 2011 4:52 PM:

$100 for 1000 miles is pricey? Y'all must be getting better mileage than we get; we have to put in $50+ worth of gas (at $3+ per gallon and rising) every 300 miles or so. Of course, our newest car is a 1997 Dodge Caravan, so we don't have a lot invested in the vehicle itself, either.

PacRim Jim said at February 11, 2011 6:27 PM:

Another benefit is that the higher price will keep your bank account from overflowing.

morpheus said at February 12, 2011 8:01 AM:

see what great posts u come up with randall

if u dont waste ur time with pushing illuminati propaganda on global warming?

and sav the the earth and the pandas gay hindu crap u use to talk about?


yeah once batterie prices drop electric vechicle adoption with skyroket


Richard said at February 12, 2011 10:32 AM:

How hard would it be for a thief to take out the battery while the car is parked on the street? Even at the low selling price of $7500, stealing batteries may be a lucrative business.

eponymous said at February 12, 2011 10:44 AM:

"Motor mounts? Are electirc motors just sitting in the car?"

I think that's a bit far off, since as long as there's a transmission, it's going to have to be mounted.

But some designs I've seen have the motor more or less wrapped around an axle. Regardless, it's not trying to shake itself loose from the chassis the way an ICE is.

"No power steering?"

If you can do away with most of the gearing and such, you'd be better off with a drive-by-wire system instead of using hydraulic assistance.

It would, though, be entirely fair to point out that now instead of a rack and pinion steering system you've now got new motors to turn the wheels *or* some system to do the same.

"No radiator?"

Yeah, I'm a little skeptical about that one. But you're going from 25% efficiency to about 90%, so it ought to run a lot cooler. If it's cool enough, you might be abe to get by with only air cooling.

You missed another suspect item: Thermostat. Not only is excessive heat still a big problem, especially with Li ion's tendency to explode, but so is being too cold. And there's a new part to worry about, a battery warmer for cold climates.

My feeling on it is this: I will never buy a hybrid. I'll buy an electric precisely because of the low maintenance, just as soon as it has decent range, there's a place to plug in and doesn't die in the winter time. I'm not holding my breath.

Steve Two said at February 12, 2011 10:45 AM:

@Richard: Read the list again, the Electric Focus doesn't require a battery. I thought this was an embarrassing mistake on FuturePundit's part, but following the link to the Ford website I see the truth. Ford is actually claiming their electric car doesn't have a battery.

If it did, I would look for the same people who steal copper now to move into the battery business.

So are electric motors just black boxes, with no internal parts?

Fat Man said at February 12, 2011 10:58 AM:

"How hard would it be for a thief to take out the battery while the car is parked on the street?"

No harder than it is to steal the whole car. Which isn't hard at all. Pull up a flat bed and winch it it on board. BEVs will be easier to part out.

greg-o said at February 12, 2011 10:58 AM:

somehow I doubt that the 10% number is accurate for how much the grid will have to expand

if you dig through here you can get 2009 numbers for both US electrical energy generation and gasoline consumption

(the following ignores diesel and its derivatives, which cancels out the heavy shipping, rail, military, aircraft, etc. uses rather well some of which would switch if electric only drive systems made financial sense)
If you figure the energy content of gasoline is about 36.6kWh/gallon (34.8MJ/L converted to kWh/gallon) and you get an average conversion efficiency to useful work of 25% (leaving you with a usable energy storage of ~9.1kWh/gallon) , and you figure that the bulk of the gasoline is consumed in light vehicles and transportation.... with an annual use of (2009) 137.9 billion gallons of gas each year.. that gives you ~1200 billion kwh per year that would need to be replaced from the grid. Consider that in 2009 about 3500 billion kwh of electricity was sold in the US. that gives you a saleable requirement of 4700 billion kwh/year. that is 34% more than we sold in 2009. and add to that the additional capacity would be considerably more than that to be able to deal with the highly transient nature of the load, particularly the probability that there will be times in the day when the bulk of the vehicles are charging, and times when they are not. Depending on how the transient problem manifests, you may have to double the generation capacity to deal with that.

anonymouse electrical engineer said at February 12, 2011 11:46 AM:

Actually, the charging of electric vehicles overnight has advantages to the system in that it would up the nighttime load of the grid and enable better utilization of the more cost efficient but slow to react parts of the grid (coal, hydro, nuclear).

However, the problem of building out new electrical power infrastructure in a place such as California should not be underestimated in either time or cost. Running a new power line in California and many other highly regulated states is just about impossible, so a buildout to support electric cars would take much more than a decade, which could prove to be a considerable damper on electrical vehicle uptake.

R Sweeney said at February 12, 2011 1:07 PM:

Considering how many of my friends (and myself) have gotten rid of cars, particularly high end cars, because of never ending and seemingly unrepairable problems with the electronic systems, I am not sure that trading hoses for wires makes things more reliable.

We shall see.

Tman said at February 12, 2011 2:01 PM:

R Sweeney,

That's what fascinates me about the new Volt. I'm very interested to see if Chevy can change their history of notoriously epic failures of the various electrical systems on their gas models. I'm not Ford has been that much better, but I've seen more GM cars catch on fire for electrical reasons than any other model.

Scott R. said at February 12, 2011 2:21 PM:

My biggest bitch about electric cars is the range. Right now I can drive about 440 miles on a single tank of premium gasoline (16 gallons( in my 1995 Toyota Camry. I would like something with similar range. not the 40-80 miles a charge of current designs. Other problems, like Air conditioning and heating, and Cold weather performance need to ne addressed as well. Not convinced of that yet, Would prefer an alternate fuel

Randall Parker said at February 12, 2011 3:33 PM:


There's no general answer to your question because in every state the tariffs for electricity rates are different. They are even different in the many regions that California is broken up into. How much is a fixed price, how much variable differs depending on where you live.

Also, California has higher prices for higher usage. See a previous thread where "Bruce" and I discuss California electric power rates. There are mountain areas of California where during part of the yer electric power rates range above 40 cents/kwh. That's about 4 times the national average.


Naturally I am choked up that I can write something that meets your high standards. Gay Hindu Pandas: I will guard against their pernicious influence. Thanks for the warning. Illuminati: Yes, we've got to prevent them from immanentizing the eschaton.

Bruce said at February 12, 2011 4:24 PM:

The CNG Honda gets 24/36 mpg of gge (Gasoline gallon equivalent).


CNG is going for 2.00$ - $2.26 a gge right now in Anaheim (first place I looked)


Its going for 1.89 to 2.13 in Houston. 1.75 - 1.85 in Seattle.

hippo55 said at February 12, 2011 4:34 PM:

Diesel electric would be nice. Good way to top enhance the batteries.

ck said at February 13, 2011 9:19 PM:

So if all the nitwits switch to these coal burners, who will pay the "over the road" taxes that the oil companies currently collect for big brother? A good portion of our gas taxes are already stolen to try and shove mass transit down our throats. Not to mention, the same idiots that would buy these impractical toys are opposed to building power plants.

Engineer-Poet said at February 14, 2011 11:23 PM:

The Focus EV battery probably has a 10-year, 150k mile warranty, so the owner won't have to worry about it for at least that long.  That's in contrast to a conventional starting battery, which is only warranted for a few years and is pro-rated.

If road taxes can't be collected from fuel any more, tolls would be suitable.  Tolls should have a congestion component and a road-repair component.  The road-repair component should be proportional to axle weight to somewhere between the fourth and sixth power (authorities vary on the exact relationship).  One consequence of this is that passenger cars would sail for free during the wee hours, but isn't that more or less what we'd want in order to maximize efficient use of the road?

Nick G said at February 15, 2011 8:51 AM:

Has anyone seen good data for car maintenance costs?

I'd like to find detailed data that shows cost per year, over say 20 years, by year. A breakdown by component would be nice, to allow a good comparison between ICEs and EVs.

Bruce said at February 15, 2011 10:10 AM:

Focus battery: "utilizes heated and cooled liquid to help maximize battery life and gas-free driving range."


Lots of extra maintenance headaches there.

The Ford Focus EV motor uses a "permanent-magnet electric traction motor" - rare earth shortages will mot likely increase its cost astronomically, if there is enough on the market to buy.

Nick G said at February 15, 2011 1:24 PM:


Have you seen real-world maintenance cost data?

Bruce said at February 15, 2011 3:24 PM:

N. But I'd be curious about the upcoming 50 state Honda Civic running on clean burning cheap NG.


"One of the biggest benefits of natural gas and propane as automotive fuels is their clean burning characteristics. Both fuels burn so cleanly that not only do they produce scant tailpipe emissions, but they also release virtually no by-products of combustion (carbon particulates and acids) into the motor oil.

Maintenance Tip: Because the oil stays cleaner longer, it’s reasonable to expect longer intervals between oil changes—furthermore, the engines themselves often have a longer service life and reduced maintenance costs. And that means regular service parts that last longer."


xd said at February 16, 2011 1:57 PM:

You anti-electric-vehicles are luddites and missing the point.

Regardless of your rationalizations (yes you read that right) as to why you don't like them, a certain chunk of the population will buy them (e.g. me and others like me).

You on the other hand, in spite of your whining that you might get killed unless you drive an F150 will be paying $5 or more per gallon. Likewise that whine that they want their comforts. You will either by taking the bus or else you will pay more for gas.
Unless you believe in the tooth fairy and oil supplies are unlimited.

While I suspect that we can innovate our way out of actual shortages by technologies exactly such as the "inferior" electric vehicles, there is no option b. where you keep on happy motoring in your Dodge RAM or F150 at 13 miles per gallon.

Will you change your tune when you're paying over $100 a week in gas just for your commute?

We'll see.

Bruce said at February 16, 2011 7:58 PM:

"a certain chunk of the population will buy them "

A very small chunk.

But hopefully people can pay 1.50 a gallon of NG using a home fill up kit for their Ram soon.


xd said at February 17, 2011 10:37 AM:


"A very small chunk"

Only if oil prices stay low and natural gas prices are really only $1.50 a gallon. Which I doubt. The reason being that an easy substitute with a large price spread gap between it and the product it's replacing, always rises in price once demand increases sufficiently.

A case in point in exactly the market we're talking about is Europe:
In the 1980s most cars in Europe were Gasoline same as here and few were diesel. At that time there were few diesel pumps at gas stations and the price of diesel was some 20% less than gasoline. By now, however, in places such as France the majority of personal vehicles are diesel and diesel now costs 30% more than gasoline.

If Gas prices are north of $5 per gallon, I suspect you'll be looking at $4 a gallon for natural gas and continuing to rise along with Gas.

So I suspect that though you are right in the broad sense (that there will be a place for natural gas personal vehicles) I suspect you are way off the mark about the uptake for electric vehicles.

Anyways the point is moot. Time will tell.

Randall Parker said at February 19, 2011 9:29 AM:


If a large chunk of the population shifts to driving natural gas vehicles then the price of natural gas will rise until the ratio of cost/btu of oil to cost of btu of natural gas will narrow.

We have several ways to spend more on vehicles and to accept inconveniences in response to higher gasoline prices. The entire population is not going to all have the same trade-offs. So far natural gas has not fit as well as HEVs in offering a desirable set of trade-offs. The number of natural gas vehicles sold has been a small fraction of the number of HEVs sold. Will that change?

I see these major contenders:

1) More efficient (but more expensive) conventional drive trains. That includes:
A) diesel.
B) gasoline enhancements including dual turbo, direction injection, variable valve timing, etc.

2) Natural gas.
Not really more efficient. Just a cheaper fuel unlike diesel.

2) Hybrids.
A) Conventional HEVs.
B) Pluggable HEVS (PHEVS).

3) EVs: Pure electric.

4) Smaller cars.

5) Super light weight materials. (more expensive)

6) Smaller than cars.

So where is natural gas going to show up in that ranking list for new cars in 5 years? My guess is diesel and HEVs will be outselling natural gas. Average vehicle size will shrink regardless of the power source. Lighter weight materials will be in greater use.

But will natural gas beat EVs or PHEVs? Depends on the price of gasoline, the price of natural gas, and the price of batteries.

xd said at February 19, 2011 11:00 AM:

I just did a work up of the numbers. It's going to require an increase in shale gas production of some 3 trillion cubic feet a year (i.e. two and a half times the current rate of increase) in order to cover a half million barrels a year decline. Doable but hard work. I expect that given the effort involved the price of natural gas won't stay at $1.50 a gallon equivalent for very long.

Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective, the easiest choice we have is expensive electric vehicles which aren't yet nearly as good as the current crop of gasoline/diesel vehicles. Obviously there are other choices available and natural gas is going to be one of them. I suspect natural gas will be the choice of those who can't afford electric vehicles since the conversion cost of an old clunker to nat gas is some $5-$10K depending on details.

That said, the superiority of the gasoline/diesel paradigm also includes the installed gas station infrastructure. If we ignore that the fast charging infrastructure on every street corner hasn't yet been built and just compare the actual vehicles then on an apples to apples basis comparing a commute in a gasoline vehicle to a commute in an electric vehicle (the vast majority of journeys), we're pretty close to acceptable for the majority of the population. It's just the outliers are not covered (those who refuse to drive anything smaller than a dodge ram, those who live in seriously cold or seriously hot climates with a long commute).

I'm putting my money where my mouth is when the volt becomes available in my area.

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