There is a wide continuum between pure fossil-eating gasaholics like old muscle cars and all-electrics that are now entering our roads.
Somewhere in electric car purgatory—neither fully electric nor gasoline-driven—are cars like the Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt. A Prius is essentially a gasoline-powered car with electric assist while the Volt is an electric car with gasoline back-up. A plug-in Prius will confuse things further, but Ford aims to meet its competitor’s salvo.
Ford’s European C-MAX mini-mini-van was originally going to come to the U.S. with three rows of seats and all-gasoline propulsion—a kind of blue oval-emblazoned Mazda5. Wisely, marketers chose the two-row version instead and set about making it a symbol of electric power.
Available this year as Ford’s first plug-in hybrid, the C-MAX Energi will put its sleek shape in the fast lane, proving a great combination of efficient commuting and long-distance travel.
“We are proud C-MAX Energi is the first plug-in hybrid that can deliver a 550-mile overall range and more than 20 miles of electric range as it gives customers great flexibility to commute to work, then take off for a road trip while passing many gas stations along the way,” said John Davis, chief nameplate engineer for Ford’s compact cars and utility vehicles.
“C-MAX Energi is a great symbol for the leading fuel economy we’re delivering across our lineup to give customers the power of choice to save money at the pump.”
C-MAX Energi is sailed by a total system 188 hp generated by an all-new 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine, advanced lithium-ion batteries, and efficient motors. Lithium-ion batteries are preferred because they are lighter, more powerful, and more efficient than the older nickel-metal hydride batteries.
A plus for impatient drivers, they also allow quicker re-charge times. Best of all, the C-MAX Energi boasts 95-MPGe (equivalent miles-per-gallon with electric distance factored in).
Even if the C-MAX was gas-powered, it would still be a great car. Based on the new Focus vehicle architecture, the small crossover provides enough space for five high-riding passengers and all their luggage. Controls and interior trim are first rate. It promises to provide a European driving experience that will make the vehicle both competent and enjoyable.
To help drivers manage the charging process, C-MAX Energi will come bearing the latest SmartGauge with Eco Guide system. Instantaneous fuel economy can be shown on a 4.2-inch LCD screen so they can monitor and alter their driving behavior to maximize range and efficiency.
Owners can access the MyFord smartphone app to monitor charging, find charging stations, optimize trips, and keep up with their vehicle’s performance.
Two Decades of Research
More than 144,000 units of the five-passenger C-MAX, in both gasoline and diesel versions, have already rolled onto European roads since late 2012. C-MAX Energi benefits from two decades of research and almost 500 patents by Ford.
The electric versions will join other benchmark Ford electrics and hybrids. Launched in late 2011, the Focus Electric achieves 110-MPGe and can be recharged in just four hours—half as long as the Nissan Leaf. An all-new Fusion mid-size sedan hybrid arrives this fall to achieve 47-MPG while a Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid begins production late this year and is expected to achieve 100-MPGe.
“Ford’s electrified vehicles offer a great combination of efficiency, performance, technology, and affordability that we believe will help spur adoption of these advanced vehicles,” said Kevin Layden, director, Ford Electrification Programs and Engineering.
“C-MAX Energi not only offers leading efficiency, it has 50 more horsepower than the Prius plug-in hybrid along with class-exclusive technologies such as our hands-free liftgate and active park assist for easier parallel parking.”
Ford has been selling hybrids for over a decade, beginning with the Escape Hybrid and adding the Fusion Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Mercury Mariner Hybrid, and Lincoln MKX Hybrid.
They were a start, but the C-MAX Energi goes from tip-toeing into electric car waters to a full-out, Olympic freestyle. Ford is committed. Let’s see if its customers are as well.
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