By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

A few carmakers from Japan and the U.S. primarily have lead the way in hybrid technology and in rolling out the first all-electric vehicles.

Ford Motor Co. likely would confirm that it wasn’t one of them. But now that the 110-year-old manufacturer is committed to battery power as an alternative or complementary fuel, it has surged forward with a host of new vehicles.

Ford “is not always the first to the table,” said Graham Eubank, president of Palmetto Ford Lincoln in Charleston. But the company goes all out when it embraces a style or technology. “It’s not just one model,” he said.

For the 2013 vehicle year, Ford has taken such strides that the carmaker calls its brochure on the new lineup the “Electric Playbook.”

Models are the 2013 C-Max Hybrid, C-Max Energi, Fusion Hybrid, Fusion Energi and Focus Electric.

Palmetto Ford Lincoln, a “certified EV” dealership for Ford Motor, received its first shipments of four of the vehicles this spring. The Fusion Energi is expected to come out later this year. Also, the new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is expected out in the next few months, Eubank said.

The Energi tag is Ford’s designation for plug-in hybrids, which are models that travel commuting or around-town distances on electric power only and then automatically switch to gas-electric hybrid juice. “The Energi’s are kind of new,” Eubank said.

All the models produce prodigious fuel mileage figures, including an equivalent 104 mpg for the all-electric Focus.

“It costs $2.48 to do a full charge on a battery,” said Gary French, sales professional at Palmetto Ford Lincoln.

The Focus EV will travel on average 76 miles per charge; the total will vary based on driving characteristics. A full charge on a 220-240 volt plug takes four-and-a-half hours, he said.

Buyers can receive up to a $7,500 tax credit for the electric vehicles and up to $3,750 for the plug-in hybrids.

Backers of all-electric vehicles realize the anxiety that motorists feel knowing that they can’t stray too far from an electric source or face running out of fuel.

But a few charging stations have opened: Palmetto Ford has two at its dealership; and customers can purchase a charger for $1,500 if they don’t want to use a house outlet.

Customers can also install solar panels that can lower electric bills and offset the cost of the chargers, said Hedi Livingston, sales professional who specializes in plug-ins, hybrids and EVs.

“Most of the people I’ve seen are the younger generation, who want to help the planet,” she said.

But the customer base is expected to expand, notably among commuters who can get home and back on one charge or a quick topping off. Moreover, the brakes regenerate the battery, so stop and go traffic actually helps an EV, Livingston said.

French said consumers are growing more accustomed to the alternative fuel vehicles, particularly hybrids.

The C-Max hybrid, for instance, is listed at 47 mpg city and highway. “We’re selling a ton of those,” he said.

In a brief drive in a mostly charged 2013 Focus EV, priced at $41,000, the car showed that the chief worry should be where to fill up — everything else handled as well as or superior to any gas-powered model.

Notably, the Focus hasa real pep, not what you would instantly expect from an electric engine. Handling was solid, and the car has plenty of head and leg room — Eubank said a 6 foot 4 inch potential customer fit in comfortably.

The Focus hatchback’s lithium-ion batteries are in the cargo bay, but a clever fold up rack in the back permits owners to store stuff over top or in a cargo hold and not lose storage space.

Meanwhile, the driver information display includes a gauge showing the number of miles until empty. The battery gauge did drop, from 66 miles to about 61 miles but knowing how much was left of the charge was more comforting than it was worrisome.

All in all, Ford maybe onto something by introducing a slew of models and choices at one time, giving the buyer the chance to pick and choose.

To learn more about the lineup of new hybrids and EVs, visit your local Ford dealer or check out the Internet at PlugintoFord.com.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.