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The Electrification of Detroit: a look a Ford C-Max Energi, GM’s EV efforts

It was lucky for me that GM’s recent media forum on its electrification efforts was in San Francisco, since I would already be there for the press launch for the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. And GM promised a session with its new global product guru, Mary Barra, and a brief drive of a prototype 2014 Chevy Spark EV.

Ford C-Max Energi

The C-Max is Ford’s answer to the Toyota Prius – especially the more cargo-capable Prius V – and the plug-in Energi version takes on the Prius plug-in and trumps it in a number of ways, including performance, dynamics, EV range and efficiency.

The plug-in C-Max Energi takes on the Prius plug-in and trumps it in a number of ways.

Billed as “America’s most fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid,” it offers 188 (gas/electric combined) horsepower vs. the plug-in Prius’ 134 and 100 combined MPGe (equivalent) EPA economy vs. the Prius’ 95. Ford also claims an electric-only range of “up to” 21 miles vs. the Toyota’s 15, although both fall short of those numbers in real-life driving. The C-Max Energi typically starts its engine at 12 or 13 miles, the Prius plug-in at six or seven.

Ford says the C-Max Energi can deliver up to 620 miles total range on a fully-charged battery and a tank of gas, topping the Prius plug-in’s claimed 540. It offers 15 class-exclusive features, including Ford’s hands-free liftgate (swing your foot under it and up it goes) and Active Park Assist (it chooses a suitable parallel spot and steers you into it) and a choice of three EV modes: EV Now (electric only), EV Later (saves battery for when you prefer to use it) or EV Auto (blends).

It’s a nice-looking, nice-driving compact crossover that effectively hides its hybridness while delivering impressive efficiency for its size. Aside from its hybrid price premium ($33,745, and it qualifies for a federal tax credit worth up to $3,750), its only real downside is a high rear load floor over its 7.6-kWh li-ion battery pack, which cuts cargo capacity to 19.2 cu. ft. from the regular C-Max’s 24.5 and (when loaded) can obstruct rear visibility.

When I tested a Ford C-Max, it delivered 34.2 mpg – nearly 13 mpg fewer than its 47-mpg EPA rating.

When I tested a Ford C-Max for several days, it delivered 34.2 real-world mpg – not bad but nearly 13 mpg fewer than its 47-mpg EPA “combined” rating. My Fusion Hybrid experience gave a 35.6-mpg average vs. 47 combined, my week with a Toyota Camry Hybrid yielded 34.7 mpg vs. 40 combined, and my test of a Prius C logged 39.8 mpg vs. 50 combined. Hmmm.
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