Watch out Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Ford’s C-MAX Energi is gunning for you.
Yes, that’s kind of a bold opener, but it is not presumption on our part. In a recent announcement, Ford has again named its perceived rival and claimed more advantages for the pending plug-in hybrid wearing a blue oval badge.
These include an 85 mph top speed in electric-only mode and a switchable “EV mode” that can serve up electric-only power on demand for up to or over 20 miles range. The Toyota plug-in hybrid has a top electric-only speed of 62 mph, and careful accelerator use must be employed to prevent the gas engine from kicking on, such as during hard accelerating. Its EPA-rated electric-only range is six miles and the EPA states it can do 11 miles with electricity plus gasoline.
“We understand customers place a high value on the zero-emission electrified driving experience,” said Ford Vice President of Powertrain Engineering Joe Bakaj. “This inspired our engineering team to equip the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid with a button that enables drivers to choose an electric-only driving mode.”
Given the actual highway speeds Americans often find themselves driving – whether attempting to go with a slightly faster flow, or in those 75 mph or even 80 mph-limited areas that practically allow it – an all-electric speed well in excess of 62 mph could be seen as an advantage.
Ford’s pretty sure of it, and mentions it as such, naming the plug-in Prius several times, and even points out it has a small nominal range advantage of 550 miles versus 540.
As for the “EV Mode,” the Ford actually has three EV modes selectable via a button on the center stack. Following is Ford’s description of each:
“In EV: Auto mode, the vehicle automatically takes advantage of plug-in charge,” said Kevin Layden, Ford director of Electrification Programs and Engineering. “When the charge is depleted, C-MAX Energi operates as a full hybrid.”
The powertrain computer automatically selects the appropriate blend of battery usage and engine usage based on demand and the state of battery charge.
In EV: Now mode, the vehicle operates in EV mode using plug-in power. The gasoline engine will not operate unless an override setting is selected or certain conditions are present such as the accelerator pedal being fully depressed and the driver enabling the gas engine. EV: Now also activates a special Manage EV screen to monitor functionality.
To achieve the EV range estimate shown on the corresponding gauge, drivers are given coaching cues to maximize EV mode. Additionally, use of climate power and energy gauges will further help drivers manage vehicle energy use.
The EV: Later setting saves plug-in power for later use, like transitioning from highway to lower-speed residential neighborhood use. C-MAX Energi operates in normal hybrid mode, using both gas engine and electric motor. Plug-in power is reserved until the driver switches to the EV: Now or EV: Auto setting.
“C-MAX Energi uses technology in new ways to provide customers smart choices in maximizing their energy usage based on where and how they drive their vehicles,” Bakaj said.
The C-MAX Energi will be sold for $33,745 including a $795 destination charge. Following an available $3,750 federal tax credit it would come in at $29,995, and in the largest market of California, it may be eligible for an additional rebate of $1,500.
The base Toyota starts at $32,760 including a $760 destination charge, and is eligible for a $2,500 federal credit and a $1,500 California rebate as well.
Incidentally, it was recently reported that the average new U.S. car price has now just topped $30,000.
Considering the Ford has more than 20 miles range in electric-only mode, Ford says it offers “more than triple the electric-only range of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing methods.”
How the Ford will fare against the competitively priced and otherwise just about efficient plug-in Prius remains to be seen, as Toyota has a loyal following and a head start with its Prius line.
And for that matter, how it will also fare next to the Chevy Volt is also in question. For what it’s worth, the Volt has a 100 mph top EV speed, and perhaps more importantly, an EPA-rated 38 miles all-electric range that was intended to appeal to more drivers hoping to primarily stay in all-electric mode. It does cost more however, starting just under $40,000 but is eligible for double the federal tax credit at $7,500 and the $1,500 California rebate, narrowing the potential net price differential.
The Ford C-MAX Energi should spice things up though, to say the least. It will be available “this fall” in 19 markets through EV certified Ford dealers with nationwide roll out expected by “early 2013.”