New Ford C-MAX Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid Challenge Prius V and Volt

By John Addison (updated 11/22/11)

SUV Drivers Can Now Get Over 40 MPG

Ford is actively competing with Toyota to give crossover SUV buyers new record fuel-economy. Active families get passenger and cargo space and flexibility and the 5-seat, 5-door, 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid will compete head-to-head with the new larger Prius V crossover SUV.

The new Ford C-MAX Energi takes fuel economy to the next level. Average trips will be in 100% electric mode using garage and public chargers. Longer trips in this new plug-in hybrid will engage a small gasoline engine to extend the range by hundreds of miles. The Ford C-MAX Energi will challenge the Chevrolet Volt by supporting 5 passengers to the Volt’s 4 and by offering much more cargo flexibility. Both Ford C-MAX models go on sale in the U.S. in 2012.

Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid and C-MAX Hybrid are based on the new Ford C-MAX five-passenger multi-activity vehicle, which has already gained over 100,000 new customers in Europe. Many times I saw this aerodynamic car gliding by on my recent trip to Spain. Both models are using new Ford lithium battery packs that are smaller and lighter.  Starting with 2013 models, all Ford hybrid and electric cars will use lithium batteries. By 2013, Ford may be selling 100,000 cars per year with lithium batteries.

“C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid will be perfect for families looking to maximize their hybrid car experience,” said Nancy Gioia, Ford director of Global Electrification. “Thanks to the versatile interior, these cars are going to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers who need room to grow.”

Ford proclaims the C-MAX to be a new category of multi-activity vehicles. Toyota proclaims the Prius V to be a new category of versitile vehicles. We call both small crossover SUVs because they have the passenger and cargo room and flexibility that people want when they buy a crossover. Speaking of versitility, Ford originally planned to give the U.S. C-MAX the sliding side doors that are popular in minivans, but decided not to be placed in the minivan category. Ford considered giving the C-MAX Hybrid 7-seats, but decided to leave that option for larger SUVs.

C-MAX Hybrid is targeted to deliver better fuel economy than the 41 mpg Ford Fusion Hybrid, the most fuel-efficient sedan in America today. It builds on the success of the critically acclaimed powersplit architecture Ford uses in its current hybrids, allowing it to operate in fuel-saving electric mode beyond 47 mph. The C-MAX Hybrid will use a third less fuel than the Ford Escape Hybrid, the current SUV mileage champion. Because the C-MAX only seats 5, some will insist on buying larger SUVs. Official EPA numbers have yet to be issued for the C-MAX Hybrid. They may or may not best the Toyota V 42 mpg combined rating.

In a powersplit hybrid, the electric motor and gasoline-powered engine can work together in blended mode or separately to maximize efficiency. The engine also can operate independently of vehicle speed, charging the batteries or providing power to the wheels as needed. The motor alone can provide sufficient power to the wheels in low-speed, low-load conditions, and work with the engine at higher speeds.

Both the C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid models will be built alongside the all-new 2012 Ford Focus and Focus Electric at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. The plant’s production is powered in part by one of the largest solar energy generator systems in the state. The C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid vehicles sold in Europe in 2013 will be built at Ford’s plant in Valencia, Spain, starting in 2013.

C-MAX Energi is Major Addition to Plug-in Hybrid Market

Targeted to achieve AT-PZEV (Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) status, C-MAX Energi provides maximum fuel efficiency by pairing a high-voltage lithium-ion battery and electric traction motor with a high-efficiency Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine. This allows it to run in electric mode before using the gasoline engine.

C-MAX Energi will offer more than 500 miles of overall driving range using the battery and engine – more than any other plug-in or extended-range electric vehicle. C-MAX Energi delivers better charge-sustaining fuel economy than Chevrolet Volt. Plug-in hybrid vehicles offer several benefits:

  •     Electric driving range, perfect for emissions-free and silent city driving
  •     Potential consumer savings on energy and fuel costs thanks to improved fuel efficiency over a standard hybrid
  •     Reduced dependency on petroleum and increased energy independence
  •     Reduced environmental impact through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  •     Increased use of electricity from renewable energy sources (e.g. wind and solar), where available, for vehicle recharging

“A plug-in hybrid owner may make fewer trips to the pump to refuel because of its all-electric mode capability,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford vice president of Global Product Development. “Conveniently, they’ll be able to recharge their plug-in hybrid at home overnight. And they’ll never have to think about the vehicle’s electric range, because the plug-in hybrid seamlessly shifts to fuel power when needed.”

The development of Ford’s first-ever production plug-in hybrid leverages more than 200,000 miles of road testing conducted in collaboration with a coalition of 10 utility companies, the U.S. Department of Energy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Administration and the Electric Power Research Institute.

Ford’s Lithium Battery Advantage

C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid will use advanced lithium-ion battery systems developed and assembled in-house by Ford in Michigan. Each system is smartly designed to maximize use of common, high-quality components, such as control board hardware that has proven field performance in Ford’s current, critically acclaimed hybrid vehicles.

Li-ion battery packs offer a number of advantages over the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries that power today’s hybrid vehicles. In general, they are 25 to 30 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter, which makes them easier to package in a vehicle, and can be tuned to increase power to boost acceleration or to increase energy to extend driving distance.

While C-MAX Hybrid will operate much like today’s hybrid vehicles, C-MAX Energi will benefit from daily charging to maximize its all-electric range. Thanks to the efficiencies of its right-sized battery system, the plug-in hybrid easily recharges 100 percent overnight on a 120-volt outlet.

On start-up, C-MAX Energi will operate in charge-depletion mode, providing electric driving range. When the battery has been depleted or certain conditions are met, it switches to charge-sustaining blended hybrid mode for continued optimal fuel efficiency

Smarter Dash

C-MAX Energi owners will have access to a suite of driver information systems – on-board and off-board – designed to help them manage the recharge process, manage the most eco-friendly route on-board, remotely control their vehicle’s charge and preconditioning settings, monitor battery state of charge and maximize energy efficiency to extend use of electric mode. C-MAX Hybrid owners also will benefit from the on-board features.

Among these tools is a unique execution of MyFord Touch™ driver connect technology, especially for electrified driving. It offers exceptional configurability of vehicle information, including fuel level, battery power level, and average and instant miles per gallon. The cluster’s new MyView feature allows drivers to access even more vehicle data such as the electrical demands of vehicle accessories, including air conditioning, which influences fuel economy and the electric driving range of the C-MAX Energi.

The Brake Coach feature helps to educate drivers to optimize their use of the regenerative brakes to recapture kinetic energy and send it back to the battery, also reducing wear on the brakes.

MyFord Mobile App

MyFord Mobile enables access to a secure Ford website and smartphone/feature phone app to get instant vehicle status information, perform key functions remotely, monitor the car’s state of charge and current range, get various alerts including when the vehicle requires charging, remotely program charge settings and download vehicle data for analysis.

The feature also allows the owner to program the vehicle to use electricity from the grid to heat or cool the battery and cabin while plugged in. For example, during hot summer months, owners can preprogram the car the evening before to be fully charged – and fully cooled to a particular temperature – by a certain time the following morning. Users can also locate the vehicle with GPS, remotely start the vehicle, and remotely lock and unlock the car doors.

Working with MapQuest®, MyFord Mobile can communicate charge station and other points of interest to C-MAX Energi using SYNC’s Traffic, Directions and Information (TDI) service. Turn-by-turn guidance is provided by the in-car map-based Navigation System. Drivers can also get up-to-date charging station information in their vehicle directly through SYNC TDI simply by connecting to SYNC Services.

Using the value charging feature, powered by Microsoft, C-MAX Energi owners in North America will be able to optimize their home’s energy use and vehicle recharging practices. Value charging allows Ford customers to reduce their electricity costs by taking advantage of off-peak or reduced rates from their utility without a complicated set-up process.

Ford Winning Globally

C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid are two of at least 10 new models or derivatives that Ford will launch around the world based on its new global C-car platform – Ford’s first truly global One Ford platform.

Ford’s new generation of C-segment vehicles will be sold in more than 120 markets and will account for more than 2 million units annually. The C-segment accounts for one in four cars sold worldwide today and, in conjunction with the B-segment, is expected to rise to 50 percent of all cars sold globally by 2013.

The previous European C-MAX achieved a balance of enjoyable driving and comfort. The all-new model is set to take that performance to a new level, giving drivers a class-leading combination of responsive, sporty handling and overall refinement approaching the standards usually associated with larger, luxury vehicles.

Although Toyota sells 4 hybrids to each one from Ford, Ford is the #1 domestic producer of hybrids. Ford has over 140,000 hybrids on the roads.

C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid are two of five electrified vehicles that Ford will bring to the North American market during the next two years. In addition, the Ford Transit Connect Electric small commercial van, built in collaboration with Azure Dynamics, has close to 1,000 sales. A Ford insider told me that Ford will be presenting a Fusion Plug-in Hybrid at the Detroit Auto Show.

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About Author: John Addison

Founder of the Clean Fleet Report, author of Save Gas, Save the Planet. John writes about electric cars, renewable energy, and sustainability.

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