Recently in New York City, Ford invited a handful of journalists to take a brand new Ford Focus Electric for a spin around the west side of Manhattan. But before we got behind the wheel, Eric Kuehn, Chief Nameplate Engineer for the Focus Electric gave us the low-down on what's new in this EV.

Kuehn made it pretty clear that Ford is looking to compete more aggressively with the Nissan Leaf with this iteration, which the automaker claims can go from no juice to fully charged in half the time (around 4 hours) - using of Ford's 240-volt charging station that costs an additional US$1,500 - while also getting a better single-charge range of about 76 miles (122 km).

At the core of the electric Focus, is a pair of 600 pound (272 kg) liquid-cooled lithium-ion 23 kilowatt hour batteries. Fortunately, there's an app for managing them.

MyFord Mobile features prominently in Ford's pitch for its electric vehicle with an app to help plan trips, manage charging and locate charging stations along the way. Another cool new digital bonus is a feature Ford calls "butterflies," a fun little gimmick that pops up butterflies on the dashboard display to indicate surplus range is available.

Kuehn explained that learning to brake early and easily and taking advantage of the Focus Electric's regenerative braking is the best way to boost your butterfly count. It's a technique that takes a little getting used to, as you'll see in the video of my test drive below.

When I did get behind the wheel, it was a little shocking how much the Focus Electric drives like a regular Focus. The suspension was a little tight, probably something to do with all the extra weight in those batteries, and it's not the roomiest compact around, but it sure had more pickup than other electric vehicles.

Is it worth the US$39,200 sticker price, though? See if my video test drive helps you decide if it's worth testing out yourself.

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