Ford: Energi Owners Plugging In More Often Than Those Of Focus Electric

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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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Plug-In Hybrids like the Ford Fusion Energi and Ford C-Max Energi—or the Toyota Prius Plug-In, among others—encourage those with regular commutes to plug in daily and do some (or all) of their commute in electric-only mode, without the gasoline engine ever firing up.

But it appears that many owners of plug-in hybrids are doing more than just nighttime plugging-in at home.

“What we are finding—and this is a little bit counterintuitive—is that our plug-in customers appear to be charging more often than our battery-electric customers,” said Tinskey earlier this week, after a presentation on the companies electrification events in Portland. “And that was a bit surprising, because you think that with a bigger battery, that those customers are going to want to top it off because they have no gasoline to back them up. But we're finding the opposite.”

The 'gamification' of bypassing gas stations

Tinskey ventured to suggest that all-electric miles on those Energi models are being driven by a determination in many owners to minimize their gasoline miles. “What we think is happening—and this is all early learning—is that the 'gamification' of not using gas is happening relative to plug-in hybrids,” he said.

The findings are some of the first as seen by Ford through its MyFord Mobile smartphone app, which was formerly only for the Focus Electric but was updated and expanded for Ford's Energi plug-in models early this year. The app enables some of the same features, like viewing the state of charge remotely, setting climate preconditioning, and finding public charging-station locations and real-time station information, plus crowd-sourced information on those charging locations. And it shares some user-anonymous elements of charging data with Ford.

More data on what Ford is finding from that is on the way, but in the meantime Tinskey notes that Ford now has about three months and an average 2,500 miles of data per vehicle, and it's seeing that about 60 percent of miles are covered without the gasoline engine on.

According to Ford, you capture about 80 percent of Americans' daily driving with the Energi models' 21-mile electric-only range. And with 42 miles, you can capture 90 percent of Americans' daily driving.

Fitting in with Ford's calculations on range?

Ford took a price-versus-range (and packaging) gamble in setting its battery size at 8 kWh based on those assumptions—and on how willing Energi buyers, which it was assuming would span beyond the most dedicated green types—would be to plug in at their workplace or on the go. Based on the initial glimpse of how willing and often drivers are to plug-in, the automaker is seeing signs that its strategy is fitting right in.

“We really didn't have data to drive our decisions on battery size and everything else,” commented Tinskey. “And so that's all going to help us shape future product.”


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2013 Ford Fusion Energi

2013 Ford Fusion Energi

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Comments (35)
  1. It's an interesting tradeoff to make. With the Volt at 38 miles and the Prius at 11 (or 6), the Energi vehicles are right in the middle of the guessing game.

  2. The big tradeoff is how mush time you spend fueling. If a plug-in eliminates most of your trips to the gas station, then it becomes more convenient to fuel than a regular car.

    It takes us about 15 seconds to plug or unplug our Volt. We plug and unplug our Volt an average of twice a day, so that's a minute per day plugging and unplugging.

    Before we got our Volt, we went to the gas station about 6 times per month, and a the time for each trip is about 12 minutes, so that's 72 minutes a month spent fueling.

    With the Volt we only need to gas up about twice a month, so that's 24 minutes, plus 30 minutes plugging and unplugging, or 54 minutes total.

    So we save 18 minutes a month fueling the Volt. That's more convenient that a regular car.

  3. Am I missing something? If I had a smaller battery (as is the case with an Energy PHEV compared to the Focus BEV), I'd have to plug in more often too if the goal was to avoid using gas as much as possible, no?

  4. Exactly my thoughts too, Gene. Seems rather logical to expect as much, to maximize all electric range.

    My wife has the C-Max Energi, and she plugs in after every trip, sometimes 3 or 4 times per day. Her MPG is over 120 now and still climbing.

    I don't understand what the manufacturers were expecting.

  5. They were probably expecting people to just use the ICE when it kicked in. People actually bought PHEV cars because they didn't want to use gas but had range anxiety. I'm not in the market right now as a college student, but honestly, companies need to increase the battery sizes if they plan on capturing more customers. For example, I wouldn't give the Volt consideration until it can make around 100 miles per a charge, basically, selling PHEV's with little range is still a way for companies to still satisfy the oil companies, at least, that's what they thought most likely.

  6. Really? By your logic, Volt owners can't possibly traveling 20,000 miles and use less than 100 gallons of gas then...

    Name me just 1 car that can travel 100 miles electric at speed greater than 75mph in the cold and cost less than $50k starting price.

  7. Where can you drive 75 mph?

  8. Just about every interstate where the posted limit is 75mph.

    I-5 is easily one of those.

  9. You'll learn. People drive Volts with 10.4kWh of usable capacity and many do not use any gas due to their driving cycle. If you live in a metro area which has many cars within a smaller radius, there is little need for big-battery cars. These Energi and Prius Plug-ins offer too small a battery but a nice sedan of 100-120 Miles of range would solve 90-95% of most drivers' needs for daily driving. You may be taking the position of the "outliers" who need the 300 mile battery for that 250 mile trip they take every 6-months. But daily, they drive 40. That is not a reason to wait for cars with 300 mile range. Cheap solution is to get an EV for around town and rent a car for longer-distances.

  10. I agree. This pattern has been seen as part of the EV Project where Volt drivers plugin more often than Leaf drivers. Ford are guilty of not reading or believing the numbers gathered by the EV Project the reports are freely available online and have been for 2 years.

  11. Would you derive from these reports, that PHEVs would need more public charging points than EVs? I rather think that EV drivers know their user behaviour that good, that they just plug in over night maximizing comfort. PHEV drivers plug in every time returning home maximizing driving electric. Puting these two sentences together brings the result that PHEVs charge more offen than EVs. What do you think? Is this theory reasonable?

  12. In the Netherlands we see a lot of hybrid drivers mostly use the ICE. They do not have to pay for the fuel themselves of course, these are cars (including the fuel) paid for by companies. So, you are right, indeed IF your goal was to avoid using gas. In the Netherlands we see a lot of users just avoiding taxes...

  13. Makes sense, since folks with smaller batteries need to plug in more frequently to maintain enough charge to avoid gasoline use. In fact, I posit that having more PHEVs and the concomitant increased demand for charger installations benefits EVs generally even if PHEVs end up 'clogging' chargers since without PHEV demand there wouldn't be burgeoning supply.

    However, I think office parking garages, airports, and other longer term (8+ hour) parking situations should have L1 EVSEs (and more of them, clearly marked) and/or secured electrical sockets for the EVSEs that come with vehicles.

  14. Charging more often is a semi-useless piece of information without the facts on how long each charging session is.

    With a much smaller battery, you would have to charge more often.

    It is like saying that the guy with a 10 gallon tank would fill up more often than the guy with a 20 gallon tank when both of them are getting the same MPG.

    This is NOT surprising at all.

    It is ONLY surprising to the manufacturing's marketing department b/c they are "idiots". They think people who buy PHEVs want the range. But the fact is that most PHEV buyers want go full electric but their lifestyle won't work with a BEV with less than 200 miles range.

    Once a reliable option with realistic 200 miles range exist, the PHEV market will shrink.

  15. I would guess that people who purchase a PHEV would like to own an EV, but purchase a PHEV for reasons of practicality. Where I live, the charging infrastructure is inadequate (3 public charging stations in a city of 140,000). Only a Tesla has sufficient range if you don't have a hybrid or ICE as an option for longer trips. I can't afford a Tesla, so I have a Volt and my wife has a hybrid that we use for longer trips. My guess is the hybrid will be replaced by a Fusion Energi in the next couple of years because I think it will be a better highway car than another Volt.

    I don't see the appeal of the PHEV going away until battery capacity hits 100KwH and there is a network of fast charging station along major highways.

  16. I have a CMax Energi and I have a very used battery and a rarely used gas tank. I would like to see the CMax increase the battery capacity and reduce the fuel tank. I do not need 500 miles of ICE range but since I am getting 75% of my driving done on battery, a larger battery would allow me to move that number closer to 85% or 90%. At 40 mpg a 5 gallon gas tank would provide all the range I need.

  17. Oops...voted this down accidentally when I meant to vote up. :-)

  18. So why not buy a focus EV or a Leaf? They have the battery you desire, you seem to be driving relatively short distances to remain within the energis range. Kickoff the phev training wheels and go all electric!

  19. I wonder about this too. When someone says "90% [of my driving]", it depends on whether this is 90% of miles, or 90% of the number of trips. I would say that if 1-in-10 trips needs the range of gas, it would be onerous to have a BEV and supplement with a gas car. But if it's 1-in-10 miles, that could translate to something like 1-in-100 trips, since t would only be long trips that need gas. In my mind, it's hard to justify lugging around an ICE for just 1% of the times I get into the car.

    Possible options include rideshare; borrowing a car from a spouse, neighbor, friend, nearby family member; renting a car (easy for some people [e.g. Zip cars], more of a hurdle for others); other transportation (e.g. bus or nearby train).

  20. I live in a rural area where good shopping and doctors are 40 miles away. The Focus or Leaf do not have enough range for that trip. That is why I bought the C-Max Energi. Yesterday I had to take that 40 mile trip and left with only 14 miles of electric range. Once again the C-Max performed very well as I got 55 mpg on that trip.

  21. Again, you mixed your electricity usage with your gas mpg.

    40-14 is 26 miles. 55MPG for a 40 miles trip is 0.727 gallon used. So, your "real" MPG for the NON electric portion of the MPG is only 35.8MPG. Way below the EPA rating of 43mpg.

    Nuff said there.

  22. Please recognize that the Ford Fusion and C-Max have a significantly greater all electric range than the Prius whose range is trivial.

  23. While the battery on th Plugin Prius is smaller I am still getting excellent mileage. Life time is 177 mpg (gas only). Highway mpg is ~65.

  24. I get 50 miles on the battery with regen, plug-in once a night, and use EV 85% of the time. 116.8 mpg combined, 208 lifetime gas only. One refill 7.3 gal/1600 miles. Longest trip 240 miles. Combined average increasing due to 0.00 KWh rate (TXU 10p-6a).
    REAL numbers from a Chevy Volt owner.

  25. PHEV are for people who really want to be done with gas but due to circumstances can't go EV at this time. Now that they have a taste of driving on electricity, yes, of course they are going to charge every chance they can get. I'd guess that most PHEV owners are already dreaming about their next car. That car is likely going to be Tesla's Gen III arriving in a couple of years. 200 miles per charge, about $35K. The Supercharger infrastructure will be in place nationwide before the car is even available!

  26. My next "Dream Car" is a 2016 Buick Electra II. It will have the Voltec System , an EV range of 80-100 miles and when I step-on-the-gas it will give me both the Hi-tech 200 hp Turbo and the battery for 0-60 mph in under 6 secs. Dream on.
    PHEV will always be better for Texans and other SW people.
    No range anxiety or charges needed on a trip.

  27. If 60% of miles are covered on C-Max's 21-mile range, would 90% be covered on a 35-42 mile range? (50-100% increase in battery size)

    The more interesting (and missing) data is length of each trip, and what percentage of the trip is electric driven? For reference: Volt driver averages ~40 miles per day with average of 1.4 charges per day (via the EV Project). Volt has a ~35 mile range.

    Should the 2015 model C-Max have a long(er)-range option?

  28. My Volt gives me anywhere from 42 to 48 miles in the summer time. But I have some days I go much farther.

  29. PHEV = gateway drug

  30. We all seem to hung up on range. The focus should be on purchasing the most fuel efficient vehicle at a price you ca afford. I purchased a Prius Plugin because the price was right. 76% of my driving is in EV and lifetime fuel efficiency is 170 MPG (gas only). Not bad for a car with an 11 mile EV range that cost me less than 24 k after incentives and the federal tax credit.
    Based on Fuelly and the EPA data, despite its larger battery the fuel efficiency of a Cmax Energi is lower than that of a Plugin Prius. Bigger batteries may translate to more EV miles we still need to consider whether the cost is worth the benefits.

  31. You could of had a Leaf S model for 21k after incentives and saved 3k and gone everywhere on electric.

  32. Similarly, I bought the Prius Plug In because I drive 100+ miles a day but I wanted a PHEV. Nothing would touch it in terms of efficiency with my commute. Later, my building at work installed charging stations. Now the Volt would be the most efficient choice. *sigh*

    The point is, buy as much battery as you need to cover most of your driving needs and stop there. More than that is a waste of money and efficiency (weight). You also don't need drive on battery 100% of the time to be efficient. Electricity and fuel prices will obviously dictate overall cost per mile.

  33. With the current Volt discount, you can pick one up for less than $23k, (after $8K GM and dealer discount, $7.5K fed, $1,500 State).

  34. I would expect what they found to be counter to what they expected. If I only had 11-38 mile electric range, I would plug in every chance I got. The plug-in hybrids would have to charge more times with their 11-38 mile range compared to the BEV's which have a longer range. I don't see why they would be so surprised.

  35. We talk of SuperChargers for Teslas. But, these Energi and other small battery cars would be better for fast charging. Take the Chevy Spark EV using A123 batteries. That chemistry can take a 5C charge or roughly 10 minute full charge of their usable capacity. Why not offer such solutions for the "small battery set" of PiHV? That means someone running about town could get their 30-40 mile charge in roughly 10 minutes at a convenience store/station. If price of kWh were say .10-.15, this cold be a very interesting solution to future fueling needs.

    Having a PiP or Energi "hogging" a public L2 station all day is not going help EV adoption. It's much like getting ICE'd out of an L2 station by a Chevy Suburban.

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