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Ford introduces electric Focus; sales to begin by end of this year

Ford Motor Co. said Friday that an electric version of its Ford Focus sedan will go on sale in North America by the end of this year.

Ford introduced the electric Focus at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The car is expected to go up to 100 miles on an electric charge.

The automaker says the Focus can be fully charged in three to four hours using a 240-volt outlet. That's half the time it takes to charge the Nissan Leaf, a competitor that went on sale last month.

Ford also said its fuel efficiency numbers will be competitive with the Leaf. Late last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated the Leaf would get the equivalent of 106 miles per gallon in city driving and 92 miles per gallon on the highway. The EPA determined the figures by estimating it will cost $561 per year in electricity to charge the car.

Ford said the Focus will have a unique, Microsoft-designed powering feature that will charge the vehicle during off-peak hours, when utility rates are cheapest, to save on electric bills. It also has a touchscreen with information such as the amount of charge left, the distance to the next charging station and the amount of gasoline saved.

Pricing wasn't announced. The Leaf starts at $32,780, but it is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit that drops the price to $25,780.

The electric Focus will be Ford's first electric car on the market. It began selling an electric version of the Transit Connect van last year. The Chevrolet Volt, an electric car with a small gas engine that takes over if the charge runs out, is the only other electric car on sale in the U.S. right now, but other competitors are planning to introduce electrics soon. In 2012, Toyota plans to begin selling an electric RAV4 crossover, Chrysler plans an electric Fiat 500 minicar and Honda will sell an electric version of the Fit subcompact.

Ford said it plans to introduce four other electric vehicles in North America and Europe over the next two years. The electric Focus will go on sale in Europe next year.

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