By cutting out gasoline altogether, Ford may be the first production car to break the 100 miles per gallon mark.
Ford today said it has started production of the 2012 Focus Electric at its Michigan Assembly Plant, a sedan the company expects to be rated at more than 100 miles per gallon equivalent.
The electric version of its five-seater will be available early next year for just under $40,000 before a $7,500 federal tax rebate. Ford is making the car available first in California and the New York/New Jersey area and then will make it available in other regions.
Ford has said the car will have a range between 85 miles and 100 miles and an on-board 6.6 kilowatt charger. That means homes equipped with a 240-volt outlet can recharge the Focus' battery in a bit more than three hours. A one-hour charge will add 30 miles of range.
Since they use no gas, the mileage for electric vehicles is expressed in miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), which is based on a conversion of the energy content in gasoline and batteries. The Nissan Leaf currently has the highest EPA rating at 99 MPGe while the Chevy Volt, which uses a gas-run generator to keep its batteries charged, has a combined rating of 60 miles per gallon (94 MPGe on electric driving and 37 on charge-sustaining mode.)
Rather than build a stand-alone electric model, Ford is making electric and plug-in hybrid versions of its existing models, such as the gasoline and electric versions of the Focus. With future gas prices unknown, it's difficult to forecast the demand for electric vehicles. Ford's manufacturing strategy is designed to make gasoline, hybrid, and electric versions of vehicles in the same plant.
Ford also said today that its C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid is expected to get better mileage than the plug-in version of the Toyota Prius and its C-Max Hybrid will best the Toyota Prius v wagon on mileage too. Both hybrid C-Max models will be available in the second half of next year.
Updated at 3:50 p.m. PT with corrections. Ford has not yet made a lease rate available yet. The on-board charger operates at 6.6 kilowatts.