2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid in Massachusetts winter [photo: John Mitchell]Enlarge Photo
My wife and I have been very pleased with the results of green initiatives we undertook at our home, including solar panels and geothermal heating.
Then we decided to expand our efforts to automobiles and cut down on our fossil fuel use.
While we didn't find an affordable battery electric car with the 350 miles of range and 5-minute recharge time that we dreamed of to replace our Ford Explorer and Escape, I believe we've found a good compromise that blends excellent performance and high reliability.
We now own a 2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid hatchback, and we lease a 2013 Ford Focus Electric battery-electric car--and we've concluded that we couldn't be more impressed.
Both vehicles appear to have high-quality workmanship and--importantly for other everyday buyers--are now available for sale in all 50 states.
Ford C-Max Energi (plug-in hybrid)
After about 4,400 miles in our 2013 C-Max plug-in hybrid, it is averaging 83 mpg in blended use (operating on both battery and engine power). In our typical driving, it runs only on electric power about 73 percent of total miles.
When used in gasoline-only mode, it averages 46 mpg in a combination of highway and non-highway driving. A very useful feature is the ability to run it in normal hybrid mode, EV LATER mode, or EV NOW mode.
An obvious difference between my previous Explorer and the new C-Max is its reduced ground clearance: When parking, I find I have to be careful about getting too close to a curb, or I can ride up onto it with the low-hanging front bodywork under the bumper.
One of the keys to keeping gas mileage high on the C-Max is keeping the car plugged in all the time. A full recharge using a 240-Volt Level 2 charging station takes about two and a half hours.
This may sound obvious, but if you plug in at every opportunity, you turn a vehicle with a rated 21-mile electric range into one that can go much farther on pure electricity during a typical day.
And if a long journey is on the calendar, its blended electric-and-gasoline range is advertised at 600 miles or more. We've found the C-Max to offer plenty of room for five people, plus some cargo (although less than in the conventional C-Max Hybrid, which has a lower cargo deck due to its smaller lithium-ion battery).
2013 Ford Focus Electric in Massachusetts [photo: John Mitchell]Enlarge Photo
2013 Ford Focus Electric
Having a vehicle with no range limitations made our next leap a little less nerve-racking. With a round-trip commute to work of 46 miles, I was willing to see what the Focus Electric would do for us--and it hasn't let us down.
Today I drove 23 miles into work, and the Focus showed a range remaining of 82 miles. The ability to cool or warm the battery (known as "thermal conditioning") depending on conditions seems to preserve range better than other electric vehicles in temperature extremes.
Consumer Reports called the Focus Electric one of the nicest electric cars they have driven, and I have to agree! The interior is top-rate including the leather upholstery (the only choice you have with the electric Focus).
2012 Ford Focus Electric, New York City, April 2012Enlarge Photo
I would have liked to have fog lights as well, but I suppose weight had to be cut somewhere. The cargo area has an 'organizer unit' which is removable, and that's just what I've done--which increases the load-bay volume.
The Focus Electric too gives us seating for five and some room for bags in the back. I'm also pleased with its performance; we find the acceleration impressive. While testing the car, Edmunds said the Focus Electric "nipped the Nissan Leaf in acceleration and braking, while it handily beats it in handling."
Because it has a 6.6-kilowatt charger, a full battery recharge using a 240-Volt Level 2 charging station takes about 4 hours.
Both vehicles have an 8-inch LCD touch screen in the center of the dash, plus two configurable 4.2-inch color LCD displays in the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. The display in both vehicles to keep track of charge remaining and other information is very helpful.
One of the best functions, which we've used a lot, is the 'brake coach' that helps maximize range by teaching the optimal use of regenerative braking. In the electric Focus, part of the Ford smartphone app uses the MapQuest trip planner to locate charging stations and find the most efficient routes to them while navigating to your destination.
Unfortunately, Ford's app does not include all charging stations. To make sure we're aware of all possible charging locations, we use apps from Plugshare, Recargo, Chargepoint, and AAA.
Instead of "her car" and "his car", my wife and I now choose the car that makes the most sense for our destinations each day.