If you live in California and have been toying with the idea going electric, some new perks just might convince you to hit the ignition button. The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board has given 2012 Ford Focus Electric drivers the right to drive in carpool lanes even when they’re driving alone. And state and federal incentives totaling as much as $10,000 are available to EV drivers.
Drivers will soon be able to buy the gas-free Ford Focus Electric, which recently claimed the title of America’s most fuel-efficient five-seater. Ford is ramping up production right now for dealership availability in California, New York and New Jersey “in the first half” of this year. By the end of the year, the Focus Electric will be available in 19 markets across the U.S., Ford said.
California Focus Electric customers also are eligible to apply for a $2,500 tax rebate when the Focus Electric is purchased or leased for 36 months or longer. In addition to the state rebate, Focus Electric qualifies for the existing $7,500 federal tax credit.
If the rebates aren’t enough to convince you, the right to drive in the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane, otherwise known as the carpool lane, just might be enough in traffic-clogged California.
Ford pointed out that the Texas Transportation Institute’s annual Urban Mobility Report said Los Angeles and the San Francisco-Oakland metropolitan area rank Nos. 3 and 7, respectively, for the worst congestion in the United States. In Los Angeles alone, this congestion contributed to a total of 38 million gallons of wasted fuel over the course of a year. The congestion was estimated to cost the average Los Angeles commuter an additional $1,464 a year.
There really wasn’t any question that the Focus Electric would gain carpool rights; under California rules, an unlimited number of “White Clean Air Vehicle Stickers” are available to 100 percent battery electric cars. Starting this month, drivers of a low-emission model of the 2012 Chevrolet Volt also gained the right to go solo in the state’s carpool lanes, under a program that makes a limited number of “Green Clean Air Vehicle Stickers” available to “enhanced advanced technology partial zero emission vehicles.”
Of course, the Nissan Leaf also has carpool privileges, and it’s the Leaf that appears to be Ford’s, uh, focus, in the marketing of its new electric.
In addition to noting its (slightly) superior fuel economy, Ford added: “The EPA-approved Focus Electric label also certifies that the car has a range of 76 miles on a single charge compared with the 73-mile range of the Leaf. The Focus Electric can be driven up to 100 miles on a single charge depending on driving habits.”
Ford began production of the Focus Electric in December 2011 at its plant in Wayne, Mich., and some Ford fleet customers and technology partners, such as Google, have already received delivery.