Primo car guy and TV icon Jay Leno plans to mix business with pleasure when his new show kicks off tonight with a recurring segment called the "Green Car Challenge." In it, celebrity guests will square off against each other to see who can set the quickest lap times driving specially built battery-electric versions of the Ford Focus. According to the automaker, its battery-electric vehicle team worked with Ford Racing to create this unique zero-emissions Focus specifically for the Jay Leno Show. Unlike the production Focus BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) that Ford plans to start selling in 2011, this prototype racer has a two-piece battery pack, with one element in the cargo area and the other where the fuel tank would be in a conventional Focus model. Developed at Ford's Romeo Proving Grounds in Michigan, the Leno-specific Focus BEV took three weeks to build and two more to properly tune and make its suspension system "race ready" prior to its competition debut. While no one has yet said exactly where it will be driven or what the track configuration will be used, the Focus BEV is fitted with a roll bar and five-point seatbelts.
"Having our Focus battery electric vehicle on the show is a great way to demonstrate how fun to drive these cars really can be," said Lisa Drake, chief engineer, Ford Hybrid and Battery Electric Vehicle Programs. "Beyond the immediate excitement of driving, it demonstrates that Ford is investing in this technology and that we're committed to electric vehicles." Ford expects to have several of its BEVs hit the streets within the next three years, starting with the Transit Connect commercial van in 2010 and a Focus Sedan beginning in 2011.