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updated 3/14/2011 2:10:34 PM ET 2011-03-14T18:10:34

Ford will throw its hat in the electric vehicle ring later this year with its 2012 Ford Focus Electric, offering competition for the just-released Nissan Leaf as well as the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt.

To get an edge over its marketplace rivals, the Focus will charge twice as fast as the Leaf on a "Level 2" charger, Ford has claimed. The charging kits, which cost about $1,500, pump out 220 or 240 volts and are intended for installation in a garage. Juicing all the way up from empty to full on a Level 2 charger should take the Focus Electric about three-and-a-half hours, versus seven for the Leaf. (Charging from a regular wall outlet can take more than 15 hours.)

The Leaf, however, does accept comparatively super-fast charging, often referred to as Level 3, in the form of 480 volts of direct current. Just thirty minutes can electrify the battery to 80 percent of its maximum charge, which translates to about 80 miles (129 kilometers) of range per the Leaf's 100 mile (160 km) distance limit before the battery runs dry.

PluginCars.com reports that Ford has decided, somewhat surprisingly, not to include such a fast-charge option with its initial Focus Electric. Ford, perhaps, is holding off because a standard fast charger has not yet been established by the Society for Automotive Engineers, the chief automotive standards group in the nation.

Nevertheless, about 400 so-called CHAdeMO fast-chargers will be rolled out in six states and Washington, D.C. by this summer, courtesy of The EV Project (supported in part by Nissan, and Chevrolet as well). The availability of these quick-charging units will likely make the Leaf more attractive to potential buyers in these areas on the West Coast and in the Southwest.

Nissan, meanwhile, has said it will have speedier Level 2, at-home charging as part of the second generation Leaf, due by the end of next year.

PluginCars.com said that buyers of the current Leaf should have little trouble — out-of-pocket costs — should they want to upgrade their at-home charging capability when the new system becomes available.

Yet retrofitting first-generation Focus Electrics to accommodate fast-charging could be a royal —and expensive — pain, the article goes on to state. Ford appears to be banking on early adopters of the Focus Electric valuing rapid at-home charging over ultrafast, on-the-road recharging options.

At any rate, it appears that the rise of the mass-market electric vehicle will have all (and then some) of the heated competitiveness that has characterized sales of the internal combustion vehicle for decades.

•    Electric Vehicles Face Charging Challenges
•    5 Reasons to Buy an Electric Vehicle Later
•    5 Reasons to Buy an Electric Vehicle Now

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