Ford of Europe has shown off the first of a fleet of Focus-based battery electric vehicle (BEV) prototypes developed for the UK government’s ‘ultra-low carbon vehicles’ demonstration initiative next year.

The programme will test the technology’s suitability for potential future application in the automaker’s European passenger car range. It showed a BEV version of its Transit Connect van line at Geneva last March and plans to launch the electric line in the US next year.

Full battery-electric conversions for the Transit and Transit Connect commercial vehicles are already marketed in Europe by UK-based specialist Smith Electric Vehicles, also the partner for the US EV models. The Tourneo Connect BEV concept revealed in Switzerland showed how the zero-emission technology could be used for passenger vehicles for urban applications such as taxis or hotel shuttles.

A consortium of Ford, Scottish and Southern Energy and Strathclyde University will use the fleet of 15 prototype Focus BEV vehicles and a charging infrastructure in and around the Hillingdon, west London, area from early 2010.

The demonstration fleet is being developed partly with public funding from the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB), which promotes innovative industry-led projects that reduce CO2 while benefitting the country’s transport system.

“We are looking forward to working with the various project partners on developing a realistic solution and viable market for electric vehicles both in the UK and Europe,” said Ford Europe chairman John Fleming.

The Focus BEV has a new electric powertrain provided by Magna and based on technology being developed for the next-generation C-segment vehicles built on a global vehicle architecture which will be launched in North America in 2011.

Ford unveiled the first of these, a seven-seat version of the C-Max minivan, in Frankfurt on Tuesday.

The Focus prototypes have a 23kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a chassis-mounted 100kW permanent-magnet electric traction motor. The BEV will have a range of up to 75 miles and a top speed of up to 85mph. Charging the batteries will take between six to eight hours at 230 volts.

The prototype incorporates key components from Ford’s North American hybrid technology, including the electric climate control system. The high-voltage air conditioning compressor is from the recently launched 2010 Fusion hybrid.

Ford said there was potential for similar prototype vehicle fleets to be trialled in other European countries.