2013 Ford C-MAX plug-in hybrid

2013 Ford C-MAX plug-in hybrid

Toyota has managed to make its Prius family iconic, instantly identified by its unique silhouettes and body styles, and almost synonymous with 'hybrid'; and this past year, GM's Chevrolet Volt, as well as the Nissan Leaf have gone on sale with distinct shapes calling them as among the greenest vehicles.

Now, Ford Motor Co. [NYSE: F] is poised to do the same. At launch, sometime next year, the C-Max will be offered only in Hybrid and Energi (plug-in hybrid) versions, the company confirmed today.

And the automaker clearly has high-volume plans for this all-electrified vehicle. "We're not really electrifying a certain vehicle as a science project," said Ford's global marketing chief, Jim Farley. "We're electrifying an entire platform."

A plug-in with 500-mile driving range

The 2013 Ford C-Max Energi will have a two-motor hybrid system, with one traction motor and the other that doubles as a generator system. The C-Max Energi will provide electric-only operation at lower speeds. It's obviously a much larger battery, but Ford hadn't yet released its capacity, the model's range, or whether it will fully provide high-speed operation in electric-only mode. In any case, the automaker confirmed that it will provide a total driving range of 500 miles, including that initial battery-only range.

For the C-Max Hybrid, Ford confirmed that it will be raising the speed at which the system can operate in electric-only mode, from about 47 mph in the current Fusion Hybrid.

This also marks Ford's first deployment of lithium-ion battery technology in a hybrid. Lithium-io designs are 25 to 30 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter for a comparable power profile, Ford says. The C-Max Hybrid will be the first Ford model to get a so-called third-generation version of Ford's hybrid system, including the new batteries and all certified to the AT-PZEV emissions standard.

In the C-Max Hybrid, a reworked version of MyFord Touch will also be featured, as well as a version of the automaker's class-leading Active Park Assist system—making the C-Max models especially well-suited to urban driving.

Faster charging time than Volt?

Recharge time for the C-Max Energi will be faster than the Chevrolet Volt, according to Ford—just under three hours with hardware available through Best Buy and supported by the retail chain's Geek Squad. The model can also be recharged "easily overnight" using a standard 110-volt household plug.

Ford is already comparing and contrasting the C-Max to the Volt. Chief engineer John Davis, responding to a question after the announcement, said that in full electric mode, you'll see a degree of similarity in performance and range to the Volt, yet the C-Max will have seating for five as opposed to the Volt's four-passenger capacity.

2012 Ford Grand C-Max

2012 Ford Grand C-Max

And as a sidenote, in the interest of focusing on a single unique body style, the roomier, seven-passenger Grand C-Max design that Ford had previously said was also in the pipeline for North America won't be coming to these shores at all.

Ford to triple electrified vehicle production by 2013

Ford plans to triple its production capacity of electrified vehicles by 2013, from a current total of about 35,000 today (all hybrids). To date, Ford has about 140,000 hybrids on U.S. roads—which pales in comparison to Toyota, which passed cumulative one million Prius models sold in the U.S. a few months ago. But it is the number-one domestic producer of hybrids.

Both the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi and C-Max Hybrid models will be built in Southeastern Michigan, Ford confirmed, and alongside the upcoming 2012. Also, Ford is planning to keep all core-powertrain aspects in-house, in Michigan, for the C-Max. It's already readying for increased production at its Van Dyke transmission plant, and the larger plug-in battery for the Energi model will be brought to the automaker's Rawsonville plant.

Ford will begin producing the new hybrid transmission later this year and will be starting production early next year on the new C-Max models. The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid is set to arrive in the first half of the year, with the C-Max Energi to follow later in the year.