2013 Ford C-Max Energi Plug-In Hybrid: First Drive Page 3

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2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Marin County, CA, Nov 2012

2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Marin County, CA, Nov 2012

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Ford proudly touts the C-Max Energi’s projected range of 620 miles, among the highest for any non-diesel passenger car. The plug-in Prius, more than one Ford person noted, delivers a mere 541 miles.

Real-life experience tells us that few people—and almost no families with kids—actually manage to travel six to nine hours without stopping. Still, the less filling up, the better.

Active noise cancellation

Just like the C-Max Hybrid, the plug-in C-Max Energi uses active noise cancellation that broadcasts sound waves through the door speakers to counter engine noises that customers disliked. That lets Ford run the engine at lower, more economical speeds—also known as “lugging’—that would otherwise generate noises customers react adversely to.

That clever electronic masking works, assisted by thick side glass, an acoustic glass for the windshield, and upgraded sound insulation in a variety of places throughout the vehicle. Ford also focused extensively on reducing wind noise and improving body sealing.

The result is a much quieter, more restful hybrid driving experience than in the often-strained-sounding Prius. The C-Max 2.0-liter gasoline engine still howls under heavy loads from time to time, but it’s tolerable and somehow sounds further away than just a foot or so ahead of the driver’s feet.

Cheapest plug-in hybrid?

Ford’s effective pricing is aided by a larger Federal income-tax credit than the Prius Plug-In Hybrid earns. Its larger battery—7.6 kWh versus the 4.2 kWh in the plug-in Prius—not only delivers longer electric range but also qualifies for a $3,750 tax credit (for buyers who qualify). The Prius plug-in gets only $2,500.

The base C-Max Energi stickers at $33,745, while the plug-in Prius base model lists at $32,710. That means that Ford can claim a “net price” that’s $200 $400 lower for the base versions of both vehicles.

The plug-in hybrid C-Max costs $4,750 more than a C-Max Hybrid with similar equipment, though Ford used “net pricing” to say that a C-Max Energi model was only $1,000 costlier than the comparable C-Max Hybrid SEL after the $3,750 Federal incentive.

Equipment differences in the Energi version, compared to the Hybrid, include standard electric heated seats, a high-capacity electric heater, and that lower final-drive ratio.

Born in the USA

For buyers who care about where their car is built, the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi is the first plug-in hybrid car built in the United States.

In fact, Ford will export the plug-in C-Max to Europe from its U.S. plant, although diesel and gasoline versions of the C-Max (not offered here) have been built in Europe for many years.

Both the Energi and Hybrid versions of the C-Max are built in the Wayne, Michigan, assembly plant that also produces the Focus compact sedan and hatchback, and the Ford Focus Electric battery electric car.

The Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid and the upcoming 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid are built in Japan, however.

Ford provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.


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Comments (46)
  1. Thanks for the report. Sounds like an impressive vehicle. I have sat in an Energi and really like the interior and the layout. A couple of points.

    1) How much does it cost and what is the Fed rebate?
    2) Much load bay space is lost to the battery.
    3) That 62.8 mpg should be 62.8 mpgBS as in, it is not actually measured on the normal mpg scale but some other scale that has no meaning.

    John C. Briggs

  2. Yes, the "how many miles you went on how many gallons of gas" scale. When one is concerned principally on their oil use, and not their CO2 output or energy use, it seems to have meaning.

  3. Excellent review. John Briggs didn't read the entire review because "Item 1) below" is answered. It's also clear what "Item 3)" means when you read the review. What was a big selling point for me was that the Energi could be used as an EV vehicle most of the time with it's more substantial EV drivetrain and EV Now choice. The average driver drives only about 30 miles per day. Electricity is much less expensive to operate the vehicle. I'm blogging on the C-Max at http://cmaxchat.com

  4. Dang it. You are right. Read pages 1 and 2 but missed page 3.

    As for the 62.8mpgBS issue, I don't think this is clear enough for the average reader. These numbers are almost completely without meaning and frankly should be either avoided for very clearly labeled.

  5. ** or very clearly labeled.

  6. Is the math off in this paragraph??

    The base C-Max Energi stickers at $33,745, while the plug-in Prius base model lists at $32,710. That means that Ford can claim a “net price” that’s $400 lower for the base versions of both vehicles.

    $33,745 (C-Max Energi base price) - $3,750 (Fed. tax credit for EVs) = $29,995

    $32,710 (Prius plug-in base) - $2,500 (lower fed. tax credit) = $30,210

    $30,210 - $29,995 = $215.

    $400 difference? Am I missing something?

  7. @Paul: Whoops, nope, did it in my head...and shouldn't have. Thanks for the catch. I've just fixed the article.

    [hangs head in shame at lack of early-morning basic math skills]

  8. Japan currency is now weakening, so there is a possibility of the Prius dropping in price next year if they continue. I hope Ford (and others) can match the cost of scale issues and keep driving down our domestic EV and EREV prices.

  9. @John: More relevant over the longer term, Toyota has said it plans to begin manufacturing the Prius in North America in 2015 or so, which removes most of the currency disadvantage.

  10. if Ford is able, this will pass the Volt for #1 EREV in very short order. This is just about the right price point. now if Nissan can get the pricing right on the LEAF, it would be easy to see an all EV transportation solution 95% of the time with gas covering that last 5% that most people use as an excuse to discount EVs in their purchase decisions

  11. @David: This isn't an EREV, it's a plug-in hybrid. That is, the engine is not a range extender whose primary purpose is to generate current once the pack is depleted, but a core part of the powertrain at all times. Unlike the Volt, the C-Max Energi *will* switch on its gasoline engine even in "EV-Now" mode if it's under sufficient load.

  12. Having spent the last month unsuccessfully trying to get Ford to warranty the failed hybrid battery cooling system of my 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid (only 140,000 km), I will never buy another vehicle from Ford. If they will not proudly stand behind the vehicles that they make, then purchasing the CMAX would be like burning my money. I have no faith that Ford has the technological ability to properly engineer and build a vehicle of this complexity and ABSOLUTELY no trust that they will support the customers who buy it when it fails. I purchased the Toyota Prius V and sleep easy knowing that this amazing vehicle contains the legendary Toyota quality and that Toyota's respect for its customers will alleviate any concerns if they arise.

  13. I don't know if its always been you or someone else that says the exact same thing everytime a Ford hybrid story comes out. In any case, go here to get some answers and support. Found this after a few minutes of a google search. It was found that the cooling fans are part of the battery and aren't supposed to be taken out separately. It should be covered under the battery warranty.


    I blame the repair people and dealers for not properly researching.

  14. I had the same response to a warranty claim with Ford on my 2006 Escape Hybrid. In my case it is the keyless entry module, that failed while the vehicle was off the road in year 3 of the warranty. I took it off the road during the summer to insure my motorcycle. When I put it back on the road, I found that the driver door would not unlock with the fob, or power lock swicth inside. It would however lock. All the other doors would unlock. WHen I reinsured, there was 2 weeks left on warranty, I promptly took it in, but they were too busy to look at it, and did not have a loaner. Bu the time my schedule to be without a car allowed it to go in, the warranty was done, and they basically told me to pound sand. Now I have a Volt. Never another Ford

  15. "...the first plug-in hybrid car built in the United States"

    Does the Volt not count for some reason?

  16. The Volt is a EREV (extended range electric vehicle). The Volt has a gasoline powered generator. It is not a hybrid. The C-Max Energi has a hybrid drivetrain. It is a PHEV. There are advantages to each. There are a lot of differences between the C-Max Energi and the Volt though.

  17. @Michael: See reply to David Laur above. On Green Car Reports, we distinguish between range-extended electric cars (e.g. Volt) and plug-in conventional hybrids (e.g. C-Max Energi, Prius Plug-In Hybrid).

  18. I posted the same response, but technically the volt is an electric car, with range extender. In a typical hybrid, the engine is directly coupled to the wheels, so it drived the wheels when it is running, and will always start during hard aceleration regardless of the charge on the battery. The volt on the other hand is always driven by electricity, and can be driven by electricity generated by the gas engine, and in certain circumstances, sustaned cruising for example when under extended range mode, the gas engine can contribute some direct power, but it can never run only on gas, which the other hybrids do. When the engine is running they are 100% powered by gas with electric assist.

  19. So, the "real world" EV range of the C-Max Energi is about half of the Volt's "real world" EV range. And its Highway MPG is only 1 MPG better than the Volt. But it is a larger and cheaper vehicle. That is an appealing market segment for Ford.

    I wonder how many people are willing to trade more space/lower price for less EV range...

    I have two additional question on the Energi,

    1) Does it have electric heat? Or does the ICE come on during the EV now mode when you crank up the heat?
    2) What is its "performance" comparing to the Volt in acceleration?

  20. Another question, 3.3KW or 6.6KW charger?

  21. @Xiaolong: Ford quotes 7 hours for recharging a 7.5-kWh pack on 110V household current, and 2.5 hours on 240V Level 2 charging. Sounds like a 3.3-kW charger to me.

    And I suspect this is confirmed by the fact that nowhere in any of their material is the charger specified--and they'd likely have said so if they were using the 6.6-kW charger from the Focus Electric.

  22. This sounds more like a 2KW charger to me. The volt, with it's 16KWh battery takes 3h15m to charge on the Voltac 240v charger which is a 3.6KW charger. The volt takes up to 9 hours to charge on 120v on a 15 amp circuit, or 12 hours on reduced charging mode, which I had to use when traveling to avoid tripping my motel plugs.

  23. @Xiaolong:

    (1) Yes, it has electric resistance heat of some sort (didn't have time to get full details) and also heated seats. I don't believe the engine comes on when you switch on the heat, though to be honest, I didn't check.

    (2) Don't have an answer for that one: We weren't able to do proper timed acceleration tests or side-by-side comparisons. The only comparison car at the Ford event was a Prius Plug-In (not too surprisingly).

  24. Thank you very much for the information.

    That is interesting. Ford really sneaked the C-Max Energi right between the Volt and Prius Plugin.

    It has worse MPG than Prius plugin and less EV range than the Volt, but it is cheaper than both.

    Or according to Ford Marketing, it has slight better MPG than the Volt, more space than the Volt, but also far more useable EV range than the Prius plugin.

    I guess it all depends on how you look at it.

  25. Yes but the volt looks nicer, and handles more like a sports car!

  26. I wouldn't trade my Volt for a C-Max or a plug in prius. Forst I don't need to seat more than 4, and that extra range on the Volt is needed. First when the temperature drops, the range on all batteries drops, so the Cmax range will drop from 21 miles to probably closer to 12, just like the volts electric range drops from, and I am using KM as I am in Canada, from a top range I acheived past summer of 72KM, down to a low of 45. My real world fuel consumption is 41MPG when running premium fuel, and 37MPG when I was forced to run regular due to no premium available. Mid grade was 39MPG. I took my volt on a long road trip, and kept accurate records. Your fuel economy may vary, but mine was very good for my driving style.

  27. This is an impressive effort from Ford, but it remains to be seen whether it will have the reliability and durability of the Prius, the vehicle to which Ford compares it.

  28. According to Car and Driver's test, the C-Max Energi only got 11 miles out of its electric range and it is STILL slower than the Volt.


  29. They >torched< the battery in that test, it seems. It's no way an indication of real-world electric range for commute traffic, nor do they seem to imply it is.

  30. It shows the "worst case" EV range...

  31. They did the same on the volt, and got the range down to about 30 miles. Still better than the cmax, or plug in prius.

  32. I think it helps clarify to use the different terms eREV and PHEVs, but the EPA/DOE say that eREVs are a type of PHEVs.
    Different Kinds of PHEVs
    There are two basic PHEV configurations:
    Series PHEVs, also called Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs). Only the electric motor turns the wheels; the gasoline engine is only used to generate electricity. Series PHEVs can run solely on electricity until the battery needs to be recharged. The gasoline engine will then generate the electricity needed to power the electric motor. For shorter trips, these vehicles might use no gasoline at all.
    Parallel or Blended PHEVs. Both the engine and electric motor are mechanically connected to the wheels..

  33. Well, EPA and DOE terms can be changed. Terms sometimes are driven by culture, not by technology.

    Calling them PHEV is just too generic... Sure, if you consider "hybrid" as "anything" with two power source. Then just about every ICE can be called hybrids since it has an alternator and starter and it certainly can launch the car for few feet with its 12V starter battery.

    One is powered primarily by gasoline engine, the other is primarily by electric motor. Big difference.

  34. I ordered the Energi in early Oct and expect to take delivery near Christmas. I also test drove both the C Max and recently the Energi when the dealer received his demo unit. To me, the drive is comfortable (I am swapping out my Lexus 460L that's coming off lease, so maybe not THAT comfortable!) and the range is excellent. It's a big change for me, but I love the technology and apparent quality. We'll see, I guess, but for now I'm pleased; driving it for a year under seasonal conditions is the best test, IMHO.

  35. The Prius's EV range is the weakest of all plug-ins out there... They would own the plug-in market with a pure 30 mile battery range...


  36. Well, not necessarily. Everyone makes trade offs.

    Prius plugins get better MPG b/c it is significantly lighter than the other two. It is also significantly "degraded" in terms of performance to achieve those MPG numbers. wimpy tires, weaker suspension and worse accerlation all help MPG but it doesn't help performance.

    If Prius had added the battery pack size as Energi, it would be about 10% heavier, that will translate into a 8-10% MPG loss. That would degrade it down to 45 MPG. Along with a larger tires and more powerful engine to power the extra weight, it would have degrade the MPG down to 40-43 MPG range, just like the C-Max Energi.

    Everything is about trade off in the closely competitive auto market.

  37. "the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi is the first plug-in hybrid car built in the United States." So now the Volt is not a Plug-in Hybrid? So what is it today?

  38. Got it from above EREV. It's a poor distinction to make, as both cars target the same market, although the technology is technically different. The comparision to Volt is made multiple times in the article (see mge figures) yet it is excluded from the comparison for manufacturing location.

  39. But Ford hasn't make any direct strike at the Volt (except the part that it keeps stress the 5-people seating). Ford has been hitting directly at Prius, Prius V and Prius plugin from the start...

  40. There is no need for they to strike at the volt. The 2 cars are totally different from a technology point, and we all know which one is technically superrior. Plus better looking!

  41. Thank you for the review.
    I am trying to read in between the lines. I think this review is giving Ford C-Max Energi a favor. The test was performed in October-November in San Francisco area, when the average temperatures are 63-69F. I presume the reviewer did not have to run neither A/C, nor heating. In contrast, Mitsubishi i was tested at 90F with A/C and was criticized shorter of EPA range. I am not sure about the conditions for testing plug-in Prius, that is compared unfavorably with C-Max Energi but one should not be biased on the basis of country of the vehicle manufacturing and "liking or disliking" the vehicle size. No comment was made on the cargo area (unless it is buried in the comments section).

  42. I agree with some of the comment here.
    I hope GCR makes some efforts to reflect the "real world" true MPG with all those "plug in" EREV/PHEV reviews. If they can, review the EV range with each and every EREV/PHEV and then reiview them again with "extended" or "gas mode". People care to know the "real" MPG in those modes. Auto makers are certainly using it to market to people. It might be hard to do that with Prius Plugin, but with Volt and C-Max Energi, it can certainly do that.

  43. Hello? Just where do you think the Chevy Volt is built?
    Last time I looked at the door sticker on mine it said "Built with pride in the USA"
    That is unless you don't consider the volt a plug in hybrid.
    Since it has both electric drive and a gas engine, it most certainly is a hybrid. Just a much better design than any of the others, as it operates as full on electric, and can operate as a series, and a parallel hybrid once the battery is depleted. But then you should know this.

  44. not only delivers longer electric range but also qualifies for a $3,750 tax credit (for buyers who qualify). The Prius plug-in gets only $2,500.What is this about, for buyers who qualfy?

  45. @Joe: Not every taxpayer has a total Federal tax liability of at least $7,500. If your total Federal taxes owed (before withholding) are less than $7,500, you can only take them down to zero with the credit--you can't get a refund from the balance of the credit.

  46. I really really wanted to like the volt, and with the cashback/rebates it's an excellent value. The problem is I couldn't get past the dreary low ceiling, cramped interior. depressing for me. Don't even mention the prius. I'm thrilled with the energi. The cmax is plenty fun, very roomy, has a euro vibe, and the real-world mpg is excellent. The problem with all the speculation with mpg is that it's very subjective to your individual requirements. I drive 135 miles per day, have a couple wicked long hills to drive up, frequently get jammed up in snarled traffic. The cmax is perfect for me. 46 going speed limit, 52 with lots of traffic. over 50 on non-hilly freeway. I'm sold on it.

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