It may have been GM's Alfred Sloan who famously called for "a car for every purse and purpose," but it's Ford who's reinventing the mantra for the new millennium. Following the recent reveal of the upcoming Ford Focus Electric, Ford has unveiled not one, but two hybrid models of the upcoming C-Max at the 2011 Detroit auto show.
The first will be familiar two you. The C-Max Hybrid will be to the C-Max what the Fusion Hybrid is to the Fusion. Ford has reworked its hybrid technology from the Fusion Hybrid and fitted it into the C-Max Hybrid, but it's also made some improvements. While Ford's release is light on the details, the company promises that the C-Max Hybrid will get better fuel economy than the Fusion Hybrid, which already returns an EPA-estimated 41 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. Like the Fusion Hybrid, the C-Max Hybrid will be able to travel on electric power only up to at least 47 mph, though Ford hints the improved C-Max Hybrid may have an even higher EV top speed thanks to a larger battery.
The second model is the real head-turner. Called the C-Max Energi, it will build on the technology found in both the C-Max Hybrid and the Focus Electric and will be Ford's first-ever production plug-in hybrid.
As with the C-Max Hybrid, Ford doesn't delve deep into the technical specs, the company is aiming for a 500 mile total driving range (150 miles more than the Chevy Volt), AT-PZEV status and, perhaps most importantly, a quicker charging time and better charge-sustaining (engine on) fuel economy than the vaunted Chevrolet Volt. All Ford will say for certain is that the C-Max Energi will reach a full charge overnight on a 120-volt outlet. Does that mean it will take less than the 10 hours the Volt requires? We think so. Though Ford doesn't specify the availability of a 240-volt charger, it's likely the Energi will use the same charger as the Focus Electric. The Focus Electric and the Volt both charge in four hours on 240-volt circuit and the C-Max Energi will likely share its battery with the Focus Electric and C-Max Hybrid, so we expect a similar charge time.
The C-Max Energi will get its charge from a port located on the front fender between the front wheel and the driver's door. If you read our First Look on the Focus Electric, you'll recognize the same blue ring around the charging port to tell you what's going on. When plugged in, the light loops around the ring twice to indicate it's connected, or the entire ring will flash if there's a problem. While charging, the ring will light up in quarters to indicate the charge level until the whole ring is lit and the battery is fully charged.
Like the Volt, the C-Max Energi will start out on electric power only until its lithium-ion battery is depleted. Ford hasn't specified an electric-only range, so it could be anywhere from the Volt's 40-mile range to the Focus Electric's expected 100-mile range, though it'll probably be closer to the Volt. Once the battery is drained, a small, Atkinson-Cycle gasoline engine will kick in, presumably the same engine from the Fusion Hybrid. The gas engine will also kick in when "certain conditions are met," suggesting that it could work more like the Fusion Hybrid than the Volt, meaning the gasoline engine may kick-on to help during hard acceleration or hill climbing regardless of the battery charge whereas the Volt's engine won't come on at all until the battery is depleted.
This all suggests that the C-Max Energi will act more like a traditional hybrid than a "range-extended electric vehicle" like the Volt. The big question, which Ford doesn't address in its release, is how the power actually reaches in the ground. In a hybrid like the Fusion, both the electric traction motor and the gasoline engine can directly drive the wheels. In the Volt, the wheels are always driven by the electric motor, though the gasoline engine can indirectly power the wheels under very specific conditions. The C-Max Energi appears to operate more like the Fusion Hybrid, but with better EV range and better overall fuel economy.
Inside, the C-Max Energi will again pick up a few tricks from the Fusion Hybrid and Focus Electric. Like the Focus Electric, the Energi will borrow the Fusion Hybrid's dual-LCD instrument cluster and incorporate the latest MyFord Touch features including MyView, which shows you detailed energy use throughout the vehicle, and Brake Coach, which shows how much energy was recaptured after each full stop and how much EV range it added. While the Focus Electric uses butterflies to graphically reward economical driving, the C-Max Energi will stick with vines and leaves like the Fusion Hybrid.
The C-Max Energi will also come with the latest MyFord Mobile app for your smart phone, or a website you can access from your computer. This program will allow you to monitor the car's systems remotely and see the current battery charge. It will also let you schedule charging, warn you if the car needs to be charged or if charging has been interrupted and allows you to schedule "pre-conditioning," which activates the climate control system and warms or cools the interior before you get in. Even better, the system works with MapQuest to locate charging stations and points of interest and can transmit the information directly to the car's nav system. Finally, it also works like a key fob allowing you to lock or unlock the doors and start the car remotely and can use a GPS system to help you find the car in a large parking lot.
While this all sounds good, there's an important distinction we must make. While all of the variants will share the C-Max name, there will be major differences between the conventional gas-powered C-Max and its hybrid and plug-in variants. The gas-powered C-Max will be a three-row, seven-seat mini-minivan with sliding rear doors based on the Grand C-Max concept. The Hybrid and Energi will be smaller cars based off of the C-Max concept and will only have two rows, five seats and conventional rear doors. Overall, the Hybrid and Energi will be five inches shorter both in length and wheelbase and 0.7 inches shorter in height. It will retain the same hatchback shape as the gas-powered C-Max.
We'll likely know more about the new C-Max, C-Max Hybrid, C-Max Energi and the Focus Electric as they're all unveiled at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show later today. Ford hasn't announced pricing for any of the vehicles, but we expect starting prices to be significantly higher than the gas-powered C-Max's estimated $20,000 starting point, possibly well into the $30,000 range. Ford says all three will go on-sale in 2012 in the U.S. Stay tuned for more.