DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. has fired the latest shots in the green-car war, claiming that the 2012 Ford Focus electric vehicle will be the first vehicle to break the 100-mpg-e barrier.
Ford took aim at its rivals, pricing the Focus electric at $39,995, including shipping. Ford has begun taking orders for the Focus electric and has begun building the cars at its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich.
The Nissan Leaf is priced at $36,050, while the Chevrolet Volt is priced at $39,995, including delivery fees.
The Focus EV, Volt and Leaf all qualify for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500.
Ford officials said today that the Focus plug-in electric can reach a full electric charge in a little more than three hours with a special 240-volt charging system. It is equipped with a lithium ion battery pack.
The mpg-e figure is a year-old measure by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that accounts for and calculates the range of technologies being incorporated into electric cars, which use powertrains significantly different from the traditional internal-combustion engine. It stands for miles per gallon-equivalent.
By comparison, the Nissan Leaf is estimated to get 100 mpg-e, and the Chevrolet Volt gets 94 mpg-e when driven in all-electric mode. The Volt can travel about 35 to 40 miles on electricity before a gasoline engine kicks on to extend range. When that happens, the car's fuel economy is 37 mpg under gasoline power.
Consumers in New York, New Jersey and California have been able to order the Focus electric since November, and that will expand to 15 launch markets in 2012.
Meanwhile, Ford also said its future electric crossover, the C-Max, is expected to get better mpg-e ratings than competitors, though that figure was not specified. The C-Max employs European styling with room for five passengers to bridge the gap between cars and small crossovers.
It will come in two versions: a plug-in hybrid that will compete against offerings such as the Prius plug-in, and the C-Max Energi is all-electric, making it more of an entry against the Leaf.
A year ago, Ford said it would offer a gasoline-powered C-Max but reversed course after deciding that the people hauler would be better pitched as a pure green car.
"We can change when market conditions [shift]," Ford sales chief Jim Farley said at an event this year, where the new strategy was detailed. "Ford now offers a dedicated body style."
The move comes as Ford and other automakers scramble to reach tougher CAFE standards set to take effect in coming model years, placing an increased emphasis on hybrids, pure-electric and other methods of alternative propulsion.
Greg Migliore is a staff reporter for Autoweek
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story indicated the price of the Focus EV will start at $32,495. That price includes a $7,500 federal rebate. The Focus EV will have a starting price of $39,995, including destination charge.