MPGe Showdown: Ford Claims C-Max Energi Will Beat Volt, Prius Plug-In

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2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid

2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid

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When they're feeling confident, automakers boast about their specs, ratings, and performance with direct comparisons to the competition.

It's horsepower for specialty cars like the perennial Camaro-Mustang duel, but increasingly for mainstream and green cars, it's miles per gallon.

Yesterday, we sat up and took notice when Ford quietly announced that its upcoming 2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid would best not only the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, but also--surprisingly--the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car.

Better on MPGe and range

It said the Energi would beat both those cars on the "MPGe" gas-mileage equivalence rating for electric running and in total overall driving range, which Ford quoted at more than 500 miles for the 2013 C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.

It's hard to judge how seriously to take this claim, since Ford has been startlingly opaque on details and specifications of the C-Max Hybrid and Energi.

We know that the pair will use a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine tuned to run on the Atkinson Cycle for maximum efficiency, smaller than the 2.5-liter four in the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid.

No specs provided, so...

Ford has not issued power or torque ratings for that engine, nor has it given the power of the electric motor-generators, the combined output of the powertrain, the Energi's electric range, or even the energy capacity of the two cars' lithium-ion battery packs.

Given all that, take the claim as it is: Ford trash-talking the competition without much backup thus far.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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The 2012 Chevy Volt is rated at 94 MPGe by the EPA, though a comparable figure hasn't been been published for the 2012 Prius Plug-In Hybrid, which will arrive in Toyota dealerships next spring.

Chevrolet quotes a range of "375 miles" for the 2012 Volt in gasoline mode, plus the EPA figure of 35 electric miles. Toyota says total range is "up to 475 miles" for the plug-in Prius.

Prius, OK; Volt, hmmmm

The 2012 Prius Plug-In has an electric range of just 9 to 13 miles. The EPA gives the Volt a 35-mile electric range, and rates it at 37 mpg (on premium gasoline) once the range-extending 1.4-liter engine switches on to run the generator that sends electricity to its electric drive motor.

In discussing the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in, Ford engineers repeatedly stress its efforts to maximize efficiency throughout every aspect of the vehicles.

The engine has no accessory drive belts at all, with not only air conditioning but even the water pump running electrically. And the vehicle spends 10 percent more time in electric mode than the previous generation Ford hybrid system, according to John Davis, lead nameplate engineer for the C-Max pair.

High MPGe, low volume?

Still, it's important to note that of the three vehicles, the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid may have the lowest production volume. Chevrolet has said it plans to sell 45,000 Volts during 2012, and Toyota is rumored to expect sales of up to 10,000 plug-in Priuses. (It will likely sell about 135,00 Prius hatchbacks and Prius V wagons in 2011.)

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production model

Enlarge Photo

But Ford says it will be able to build roughly 100,000 "electrified" cars once it's up to full production in 2013. That includes the 2012 Ford Focus Electric battery car, the C-Max Hybrid and Energi plug-in, plus the current Ford Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

Assuming 80 percent of that number is conventional hybrids, and 5 percent is the Focus Electric, that leaves a maximum of 15,000 plug-in hybrids for 2013 among the C-Max and any other models Ford may introduce with the same powertrain.

So it's possible that the vehicle with the best overall MPGe rating will be the one that's least available. The hybrid C-Max will arrive sometime next fall, with the plug-in Energi version "a couple of months" after that.

What do you think?

Who do you think will win the showdown in gas-mileage ratings among vehicles that both plug in and have gasoline engines?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (5)
  1. Seems like people are taking advantage of the confusion between E-REVs, plug-ins, and BEVs to make some exaggerated claims.

    Let's start with the Plug-in Prius. Perhaps the electric range is zero miles rather than the 9-13 claimed given that the gasoline motor may turn on immediately when starting the car. So immediately after getting a charge Plug-in Prius MPGe will likely have to be some combination of 50 MPG (the gas component) and (guessing) 100 MPGe (electric component). So let's say it will get 75 MPGe. Surely the C-max plugin will be better than that.

    As for Cmax beating the Volt, both the Leaf and the "i" have already done it, so it is possible.

    Latest MPGe confusion is EPA 60 MPGe listed for the Volt.

  2. Nissan America will win it. Japan is ahead of the "drag your heels...rah! rah! rah!" pack of GM and Ford stretching the truth about their gas hybrid vehicle's MPG and MPGe. You would have to be blind and deaf not to know that these two sisters are lying and trying to pick the pockets of the middle class.

  3. MPGe is a meaningless and idiotic metric that should be tossed out the window. Your tax dollars at work - confuse the hell out of the consumer. If, for some reason, you have an anal concern about a car's energy characteristics, you aren't going to get very far using statistics based on abstract driving conditions that you are unlikely to have. Look at how you typically use a car - that will tell you a lot about how much battery you should get. Battery costs are so high that they are driving the logic
    in choosing to get the highest cost efficiency. I seldom drive over 13 miles per day, so why would I buy a Volt rather than a plug-in Prius? Well, I wouldn't. That would be stupid of me.

  4. I think the thing that turns me off about the Plug-in Prius (and I am a Prius owner) is that the ICE engine will still turn on during that 13 mile journey just to provide sufficient acceleration. So you will probably use significant amounts of gasoline.

    This contrasts with the Volt, Leaf, "i" etc where no gasoline is used for your 13 mile trip.

    The interesting one is Fisker Karma where you can switch modes and get it to kick on the ICE engine any time you want just for a kick in the pants and pollute at the same time.

    Also working against the Plug-in Prius is a $2500 rebate vs the $7500 rebate for the Volt.

  5. I'm just happy to see a healthy bit of competition in the market. If there's profit in it, and clearly GM/Ford/Nissan/Toyota think there is then they'll pour money in to develop and we'll get better and better hybrids and EVs every year. They'll market it hard to shift their (I assume) high cost/low margin products and the message will spread to the masses. The masses who'd never question something unless told to by someone or organisation they hold as an authority. The people that enthusiasts find hardest to convert/convince/educate.

    Whether the C-Max Energi is any good is almost secondary to the fact that another major global automaker has brought a product to the market.

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