CHICAGO – Ford will have limited availability of its ’12 Focus battery-powered electric vehicle when it goes on sale this spring – only 450 cars.

Because the new Focus comes out so late in the ’12 model year, Ford will hold off boosting output to 4,500 units annually until the ’13 version arrives this fall, Eric Kuehn, chief engineer for the car, tells the Midwest Automotive Media Assn. here.

With supplies limited, Kuehn says the car will be sold only in New York, New Jersey and California this spring, before adding 16 more states, including Illinois and Michigan, this fall. By first-quarter 2013, Ford hopes to have the car available in the remainder of the U.S., as well as Canada.

Kuehn says Focus EV’s lithium-ion battery pack will have a range of 76 miles (122 km). It will take 18-20 hours to recharge using a 110V outlet or three to four hours using a Level 2 220V system.

Ford has an agreement with electronics retailer Best Buy for its “Geek Squad” service team to visit a Focus EV buyer's home to inspect the wiring system and install a 220V line in the garage if needed, as well as a Level 2 charge unit.

The Focus EV doesn't have the adaptor needed to operate with a 480V Level 3 charger that promises a full charge in 30 minutes.

Kuehn says the wiring and Level 2 charger will run about $1,499 installed, or $200 to $700 less than rivals. The charger can be taken with the motorist when he or she moves.

If the car is driven aggressively or in extreme temperatures, the Focus EV’s range could dip to 40-60 miles (64-97 km), Kuehn says.

To maximize range in extreme outside temperatures, the car can be programmed to draw energy from the recharger to heat the battery pack in cold climates or cool it in warm climates for 30 minutes prior to a scheduled departure, helping the battery pack avoid that energy-robbing chore once the car is started.

Kuehn says pre-conditioning should help keep range close to the 76-mile target, regardless of weather.

Ford uses liquid to both cool and heat the LG Chem battery pack, depending on weather conditions. On hot days, chilled liquid absorbs heat from the batteries, dispersing it through a radiator before pumping it through the chiller again. On cold days, heated liquid warms the batteries, gradually bringing the system’s temperature to the proper level for efficient charging.

The EV also has a handy alert system – a series of butterflies that appear on the dash screen – to advise the driver that while the range meter is running low, there still is a power reserve to provide an additional 10 miles (16 km) to get home.

“If you don't see butterflies, change your driving behavior – and look for a recharging station,” Kuehn says.

In keeping with the conservation theme, the Focus EV uses recycled plastic bottles to create the yarn to make the standard seat covers in the car. Shreds of recycled blue jeans are used in the floor coverings and coconut fibers are used in the trunk insulation material.

However, there is one option that contradicts the conservation approach: leather seats.

“In researching the car, more than 40% of our potential buyers said they wanted leather seats," Kuehn explains.

Optional is a $350 speaker system that will emit sounds at speeds up to 25 mph (40 km/h) to warn pedestrians of its approach. That ultimately will become a standard feature once the U.S. government finalizes a new requirement, expected within the next year.

Ford tested 18 different warning sounds on its Focus Facebook page. Facebook fans whittled the selection down to four, and Ford chose one from that group to use, unless the government mandates a particular sound.

The EV will start at $39,900, compared with about $19,000-$22,000 for a gas-fueled Focus. However, the electric car qualifies for a federal tax credit of $7,500 on the purchase.