Buyer's Guide: 2014 Plug-In Hybrids From Toyota, Ford, Honda & More Page 2

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2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012

2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012

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2014 Chevrolet Volt

The Chevy Volt will continue in its fourth model year with just a handful of changes, though it will be joined on the assembly line by the Cadillac ELR range-extended electric coupe that shares its Voltec powertrain.

The five-door four-seat compact hatchback is rated at 38 miles of electric range, after which its 1.4-liter gasoline range extender kicks on to generate electricity to power the car another 300 or so miles.

Under certain limited circumstances, the engine can be mechanically clutched into the drive unit to supplement the electric power. The driver will never know when this happens, however, and the Volt driving experience remains electric in feel: smooth, quiet, and without any gear shifting.

For 2012, the Volt was the best-selling plug-in electric car in the U.S. For the first four months of 2013, it was likely slightly outsold by the Tesla Model S.

2014 Ford C-Max Energi

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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The Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid enters its second year, which provides an electric range of 21 miles and then reverts to being a (slightly heavier) version of the conventional hybrid C-Max.

The C-Max Energi will hit 85 mph in all-electric mode, and it will hold in electric-only mode much longer than the plug-in Prius (below) which switches on its engine under anything more than light to medium load.

The plug-in C-Max is one of two Energi models from Ford, both using identical powertrains based on a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and Ford's twin motor-generator hybrid system, along with a lithium-ion battery pack in the rear.

One drawback to the Energi version of the C-Max: the larger battery pack mounted under the load deck raises rear deck height significantly, both making for a higher liftover height and cutting into cargo volume.

Pricing starts at $33,745--cheaper than its plug-in Prius rival.

2014 Ford Fusion Energi

2013 Ford Fusion Energi

2013 Ford Fusion Energi

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Like the C-Max Hybrid (above), the Ford Fusion Energi is a plug-in adaptation of the higher-volume Fusion Hybrid.

Both vehicles use a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and Ford's hybrid transmission, but the plug-in Fusion sedan provides 21 miles of EPA-rated electric range and an efficiency rating of 100 MPGe. (MPGe stands for Miles Per Gallon equivalent, or the distance that a car can travel electrically on the amount of energy contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.)

The Fusion Energi has the advantage of looking just like a regular Fusion--if you disregard a few trim details and the charging-port door on the left-front fender--for those buyers who don't want their choice of a plug-in vehicle to make them stand out from the crowd.

While the C-Max competes against the Toyota Prius, the Fusion Energi is more likely aimed squarely at the Chevy Volt.

Like its sibling in Ford's plug-in lineup, it can run in all-electric mode at speeds as high as 85 mph under the right circumstances.

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Comments (7)
  1. Great article as always, John.

    My wife and I own both the 2013 C-Max Energi and a 2012 Rav4 EV. Speaking of the Energi, it is a wonderful vehicle. My wife leaves for her 12 mile commute to work, in auto mode, which stays electric for virtually her entire trip. She has the option to plug in at work, so her entire commute stays electric. She's averaging over 100 MPG so far on lifetime miles.

    She loves the spacious feel of the Energi, and reports that it has great visibility, unlike her previous Volt (which is a great car too). The fit and finish of this vehicle is top notch, and the only way she thinks it can be improved is with a larger battery for all electric travel - ideally 40-50 mile range. Great job Ford!

  2. I have the all-battery Ford Focus Electric and really love its luxurious feel, fit and finish!. I've sat in the C-Max hybrid and love the thought of yet more interior cargo room--but I haven't seen the cargo area of the Energi version. Is it really bad?

    Also, I've sat in mock-ups of the BMW i3. Wow! Talk about interior room! But price..? (Ouch!)

    Like Xiaolong says below, "...we do need some affordable plugins that can perform like a Tesla S..." And by "perform," I would mean carry stuff AND get 100-150 miles to the charge (Real-world, in ALL kinds of weather, etc.)

  3. The ELR has a real potential to be a good seller. Caddy owners don't shop price
    and if the Voltec gives good performance it should sell

  4. More choices the better.

    But we do need some affordable plugins that can perform like a Tesla S and we need a "serious" plugin SUV and plugin pickup trucks to prove to the public that EV is capable for all type of terrain and duties...

  5. Love the performance of the Volt drive train. It really is more an electric drive than a hybrid. The seating is limiting but in my case the other features win out. It has performed well beyond my expectations.

  6. I read a GM post where it said the Volt uses a planetary gearbox, which makes me think the Volt is hybrid-hybrid. It is in series mode, EREV 95% but switches to parallel when needed such as high speed and high slopes. There are good videos on YouTube showing the gearbox system. Brilliant design.

    I just test drove the C-MAX and Fusion Energi and was also impressed.

  7. Volt's so called "parallel mode" only works when it is in the "gasoline mode or aka hybrid mode or so called ranged extended mode" and ONLY at speed above 70mph.

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