MEDIA REVIEWS is a compilation of reviews and write-ups of test drives of various e-drive vehicles by the different authors and media. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of EV World. Click the article title to expand the story.
C-Max Energy Electric Hybrid Almost Makes Toronto Traffic Bearable
Don Proudfoot reviews Ford's C-Max Energi electric hybrid as he creeps long Toronto's Don Valley Parkway as rush hour.
Globe and Mail/Canada 15 Aug 2013
No vehicle can compensate for the special hell that is the Don Valley Parkway during rush hour, not on a bad day like this with an hour and 17 minutes of bumper-to-bumper anxiety crawling from Port Union Road to the Gardiner Expressway.
But there’s a moment of grace, noting from a digital readout that the Ford C-Max Energi SEL has used only 1.87 litres of gasoline in the mind-bending trek.
Knowing the Energi will use no gasoline at all while driving through the heart of downtown Toronto, even better.
You need to know the full story, with explanations and qualifications that come up in the course of today’s City Drive.
Ford charges a sizable premium for the all-electric capability just mentioned. Our C-Max Energi SEL lists at $36,999, whereas a regular, C-Max Hybrid starts at $27,199 rising to $30,199 in SEL trim.
The Energi advantage is 33 kilometres of all-electric range, when fully charged. (The government of Ontario offers a rebate of $5,808 as a pro-electric incentive. Ontario rebates range from $5,000 for a Toyota Prius Plug-in to $8,231 for a Chevrolet Volt.)
Once the Energi’s juice is consumed, operation reverts to a combination of gasoline and lithium-ion battery propulsion as in the less-expensive C-Max Hybrid, until the car is plugged in for another charge (requiring six hours in our experience, but two to three hours will do for those with premium 240-volt outlets, also subsidized by the province).
Fully charged, and fully gassed just before entering Highway 401 at Port Union Road, the commute to The Globe and Mail from the edge of Pickering begins at 8:24 a.m. I’m late already.
The Energi’s power impresses while accelerating through the on-ramp, but the corner introduces three quibbles: excessive leaning due to the car’s height and heft; my tendency to slide off the seat because of its lack of side bolstering; the realization these seats are really narrow.
You might be driving a street car the windshield is so big and far ahead of you. The view is panoramic. It’s great. Vision to the sides and rear also is extraordinary, easing the squeeze right as traffic density tightens with the approach of the DVP. It’s been 31 minutes just getting this far.
Now the radio traffic report warns of two lanes closed at the Bayview/Bloor exit. As though there’s any escape. Traffic is already choked. Shuffling to York Mills consumes another 10 minutes.
Full stop. Go. Stop. Time to play with the voice-controlled Sync audio/communication system. Procedures that so befuddled me when reading the owner’s manual last night become easier when communicating with the genie within the dashboard.
Saying “What Can I Say” introduces a list of suggested prompts on the screen on the centre stack. “I’m hungry” is always to my taste – and, almost instantly after saying so, the navigation is instructing me to exit at Lawrence for a nearby Italian bistro. Except I opt not, committed to the commute.
York Mills to Lawrence, another 12 minutes. Things slow down then. The long view up the hill to the Wynford exit is a ribbon of red – thousands of brake lights illuminated, everyone in a rush at a full stop.
Surprise, surprise, momentum starts building at Eglinton, 13 creepy-crawly minutes following Lawrence. All lanes are clear at the Bayview/Bloor accident scene and suddenly it’s a sunny day at 90 km/h. Only eight minutes after passing the Bloor exit, I’m exiting the Gardiner for The Globe. I arrive at 9:47, having covered 36.5 km in an hour and 23 minutes.
And now 21 kilometres of gasoline-free fun is at hand. I’d intended to reserve all 33 km of the electric capacity for city-centre driving, by pushing the EV-later button when starting out. I forgot that turning the car off when stopping for gasoline negated the EV-later function – I needed to push the button again after the fill-up – and so my first 12 km on the 401 were in electric mode, depleting my intended reservoir for downtown.
You can’t tell which mode you’re in at highway speeds. But the car’s near-silence pulling away from The Globe is immensely appealing. The U-turn takes all four lanes, revealing one C-Max shortcoming as a city car, but in no time at all, I’ve arrived at The Gladstone Hotel for its all-day breakfast.
Heading east on Queen afterward, the Energi is a joy in traffic, satisfying in so many ways. An electric car cannonballs away from traffic lights. In stop-and-go driving, block after block on Adelaide, where normal cars guzzle fuel, there’s satisfaction knowing it’s consuming no gas and precious little electricity. Climbing the steep ramp up into the Eaton Centre parking garage, silently, fumelessly, is pleasing as well.
Downtown is more compact than I imagined – I’ve eaten on the west side, shopped in the middle, and driven across the Don River into the east-side, and still only totalled 13.6 km since stopping at The Globe.
The readout indicates 7 km of electric driving remaining as I enter the DVP for the drive home.
The DVP isn’t through with me yet. Northbound traffic comes to a standstill at Eglinton, and this time the shuffle continues all the way to York Mills, where a tractor trailer has mounted a Mercedes-Benz SUV.
Distance covered for the day, 96.1 km. Final fill-up, 5.3 litres, plus six hours of plug-in after arriving home. Some day this sort of fuel efficiency, and this 33-km electric capability, will be viewed as baby steps in the march toward green motoring.
2013 Ford C-Max Energi SEL
Type: Four-door hatchback
Base price: $36,999; as tested, $40,679 including options and $1,550 destination/pre-delivery charges, but not taxes
Engine: 2.0-litre, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder and electric motor
Horsepower/torque: gasoline engine 141 hp/129 lb-ft; electric motor 141 hp/129 lb-ft; combined, 188 hp
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): Natural Resources Canada rating, 1.9 city/1.9 highway. In our city drive, 5.3; regular gas
Alternatives: Toyota Prius Plug-in, Chevrolet Volt
Ford C-Max Hybrid: Shockingly Good
Reviewer doesn't get EPA rated fuel economy, but comes away impressed, nonetheless.
Times Tribune/USA 10 Jun 2013
Credit Ford for taking some risks.
The company that had lost its way a decade or so back now offers a coherent and in many instances superior line of mainstream cars and trucks that compete with the best the world has to offer.
The newest addition to the Blue Oval stable is the Focus-based C-Max wagons, offered as either a regular gas-electric Hybrid or a plug-in version dubbed Energi that's capable of running up to 20 or so miles on electric power alone. According to EPA estimates, the Energi will squeeze a best-in-class 100 MPGe (the little "e" stands for electric-mode power) out of a gallon of gasoline.
The C-Max is a four-door midsize hatchback that's sold in one trim level, SEL. Both the regular Hybrid and Energi are powered by a 2-liter inline four-cylinder coupled to a permanent magnet AC synchronous motor, the sum of which produces a rated 188 horsepower and 177 foot-pounds of torque. Power is channeled to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission.
Base pricing for the regular Hybrid model starts at a budget-minded $25,200. The Energi, however, commands an asking price that's nearly eight grand north of that. For that extra dough, one gets a larger rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack and plug-in port and cord that hooks up to a standard 120-volt outlet.
As noted, a fully juiced Energi will knock out the commute from Clarks Summit to downtown Scranton under electric-only, affording its owner the aforementioned high fuel-efficiency rating. Once the battery's tuckered out, the Energi operates like its Hybrid sibling, and receives a similar 43-mpg overall efficiency estimate.
Reportedly, though, a number of C-Max drivers have noted anecdotally and in lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and California they can't quite match the EPA's lofty numbers for gas/electric-mode driving. Instead, drivers claim their C-Maxes (as well as the new Fusion Hybrid sedan) achieved fuel efficiency roughly 10 mpg below the as-advertised rating.
During my week with the C-Max, I averaged roughly 38 mpg, which is better than the numbers claimed by others but still short of the EPA rating. But, you know what? I almost never match EPA estimates in any car I test, whether it's a C-Max, Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid or Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Blame my heavy right foot; I drive cars with the reasonable expectation that they'll, y'know, go when instructed.
And in that regard, the C-Max proved to be one of the quickest hybrids I've sampled. With both the gas engine and electric motor doing their things under hard acceleration, the little wagon moves with a wheel-chirping alacrity that leaves the Prius in the dust. Only the turbocharged Jetta Hybrid I tested recently seemed quicker than the C-Max.
The cockpit is an attractive and high-techy environment with lots of logically arranged and easy to read LED screens, which includes an information display that tells you everything you need to know about how the vehicle functions, fuel consumption and so forth.
Handling is quite good and the suspension is softly tuned for a very comfortable ride. There's plenty of room up front for full-size adults; the rear bench is probably best left to the kiddos, although adults won't find reason for complaint on short hops.
Cargo volume behind the second row in the Hybrid model is 24.5 cubic feet, which drops to a tight 19.5 cubic feet in the Energi due to the larger battery. Flipping the setbacks forward increases volume to 52.6 and 42.8 cubic feet in the Hybrid and Energi, respectively.2013 Ford C-Max Energi
• Vehicle type: Two-door, four-passenger compact coupe
• Base/as-tested prices: $32,950/$36,825
• Engine and transmission: 2-liter inline four-cylinder and permanent magnet AC synchronous motor, 188 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque total output; continuously variable transmission.
• EPA estimates: 100 MPGe in electric-only mode, 43 mpg in gas-electric mode.
• The good: Compact proportions but spacious interior; good fuel economy; feels quick for a hybrid; plug-in feature and larger battery allows for greater distances in electric-only mode; smooth road manners.
• The bad: Poorer-than-advertised fuel efficiency compared to EPA rating; small cargo area; new models always invite wonderments regarding overall reliability; a princely markup over the non-plug-in C-Max Hybrid.
• Bottom line: A solid and promising entry in the evolution of personal transportation.
Car and Driver Tests Ford's C-Max Energi Electric Hybrid
Test drive reveals car's shortcomings concluding that in 'science fiction this car may make sense... but in reality, the brave new world is still on back order.'
Car and Driver 25 Feb 2013
Boldness is science fiction’s most important plot device. Heroes fearlessly ?warp into voids in machines that can travel light-years without refueling, gallantly confronting new challenges and achieving ones once unimaginable (until somebody in Hollywood imagines it). There’s never any hesitation when you have total confidence in the technology. And the movie-franchise potential.
But that’s Star Trek, and those guys don’t make the lease payments on their own starships. This is the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid people-mover, an urban shuttlecraft that asks you to be bold with your family’s transportation needs and to do so entirely at your own considerable expense.
The $33,745 Energi joins an exclusive list of pioneering hatchback plug-in hybrids, including the $32,795 Toyota Prius plug-in and the $39,995 Chevrolet Volt, with muscled-up battery packs and extension cords for wall charging. These three cars exist for the middling-bold of eco-buyers, or those who want all the benefits and public palaver that comes with courageously whispering along in an electric vehicle—except when they don’t. For then, after the juice runs out, the Energi and its competitors switch over to old-fashioned petroleum power, which, as dirty as it is, always trumps foot power.
The Energi carries its heart in its tail, where a 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack overflows what could have been the spare-tire well if there were a spare tire. It’s a big leap up in capacity and cost from the 1.4-kWh battery used in its sister ship, the regular $25,995 C-Max hybrid. The larger battery is there to give the Energi something the C-Max hybrid lacks: a claimed 20 miles or so of electric-only driving. After that, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder internal combustion engine that is also being lugged along awakens, and the car operates essentially the same as any other hybrid does.
The Energi can be charged fully in two and a half ?hours using a 240-volt charger, or in seven hours using a standard 120-volt household outlet. Like any hybrid, it also supplements its electric range with regenerative braking. Besides the battery and the power electronics, not much else is changed in a C-Max hybrid to produce an Energi. Between the front wheels lies the same DOHC 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder that Ford rates at 141 horsepower, abetted by a 118-hp AC motor. Mash up the electric motor’s output with that of the engine through the Energi’s continuously variable transmission and you get a net 188 horsepower, or the same as in the C-Max and Fusion hybrids.
Along with the Fusion Energi, the front-drive, five-seat C-Max Energi is the most technologically advanced production vehicle Ford builds. But the C-Max never does anything more exciting than send out an instant message when its battery is charged. Driving it is like being the night watchman at a nuclear power plant. It’s best to just sit back and leave it in automatic mode and let the Energi almost imperceptibly dance between electric drive, gas power, and whatever combination the computer thinks best. Since there’s no tachometer, the driver must rely on audible cues to know when the engine is even running. At speed, the subdued wind noise and the substantial tire noise are enough to drown out any song sung by the four-cylinder.
The C-Max Energi weighs in at a thick 3898 pounds. That’s 259 pounds or almost a full Rob Gronkowski more than the C-Max hybrid. The Energi is nearly 1000 pounds heavier than the lightest four-door Focus, with which it shares its basic structure, 104.3-inch wheelbase, suspension, and Wayne, Michigan, assembly plant.
Let the engine help and the trip to 60 mph drops to a more acceptable 7.9 seconds and the quarter-mile prances by in 16.1 seconds at 88 mph. It’s reasonable, but it’s a soft-legged sprint, accompanied by the drone typical of CVT-equipped vehicles. And the ride is stiff, exacerbated by the 38-psi inflation pressure specified for the piously named P225/50R-17 Michelin Energy Saver A/S tires.
Still, around town in the stop-and-go crawl of urban traffic, the Energi moves fleetly enough on electricity. The steering is decently quick and the brakes feel fine. The Jetsons–spec whirr from the regenerative braking system at least hints that something special is going on. At first there’s even a playful element about the computerized regenerative-braking coach, which judges the driver’s ability to recover energy during every full stop and displays it on the dashboard as a percentage of potential. But the novelty?wears off as you discover that your natural braking style produces consistent, sub-60-percent energy-recovery stops. Eventually it becomes annoying as the car frequently informs you that regenerative braking is yet one more thing in your life at which you are tragically inadequate.
While the C-Max is available either as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid in North America, it’s offered in other markets with a conventional drivetrain. The conversion into a hybrid has ragged edges, most obviously in the rear cargo area where the Energi’s larger battery pack sticks up higher, resulting in 19 cubic feet of cargo space versus the C-Max hybrid’s 25. A Focus hatchback, on the other hand, offers 24 cubic feet of space without the huge price or teetering body. Even with the second-row seat down, the C-Max Energi’s 43 cubic feet of space can’t match the Focus hatch’s 45.
There’s a lot of Focus in the C-Max’s dash design and driver interface. You ride higher than in the Focus and on seats that seem thinner, less contoured, and lacking in thigh support. Plus, the standard leather-trimmed upholstery is so brutally processed that it feels like a shower curtain.
For someone with a prescribed commute and charging opportunities on either end—say the Chairman of the Environmental Studies department at UC Santa Barbara—the C-Max Energi might almost make some sense. That professor could go months without buying gas, operating almost indefinitely on electricity alone. That is, unless his commute includes the 7.8-mile trip from Santa Barbara up to the 2224-foot-elevation San Marcos Pass. Just four miles into our trip up that road on a full charge, the Energi was begging off electric mode and engaging the engine. According to the Energi’s display, at the top of the pass the battery was completely spent despite the gas engine’s help, showing zero range left in reserve. The Energi reported that six miles of electric range was recovered on the trip back down the hill.
Throw in a long trip to, say, Palo Alto for the Lichen Sustainability Conference at Stanford, and the fuel-economy numbers are only just okay. After several trips across Southern California racking up more than 400 miles, we achieved 33 mpg overall, with about 100 of those miles in all-electric mode. The point is that the EPA-rated, lab-generated 43 mpg combined and the much higher MPGe figures are desperately contextual [see above]. Two-ton vehicles can only be so fuel efficient no matter what’s churning under their hoods and tails.
At $7750 more than the C-Max hybrid, and almost twice the $16,995 that Ford asks for the cheapest Focus four-door, the Energi isn’t just asking you to be bold. It’s asking you to be blind to its shortcomings and minimal gains while being a little reckless with your money. For drivers with longer freeway commutes, a conventional Focus may be at least as economical. And the base price doesn’t include a home charging station and its installation or account for the $3751 federal tax credit or any state bribes that Energi buyers are eligible to receive.
In science fiction this car may make sense. But in reality, the brave new world is still on back order.
In the driver-selectable all-electric mode, there’s a satisfying first jolt of torque off the line since the full 117 pound-feet is available immediately. But that’s over in an instant. Like virtually every electric motor, this one works in near silence and with the smoothness of Greek yogurt. But 117 pound-feet can only do so much with the Energi’s substantial mass. In pure-electric mode, the Energi accelerates as if?it is eroding. It takes an unbearable 16.1 seconds to run from zero to 60, and the quarter-mile lasts an agonizing 20.2 seconds, yielding 65 mph. It seems like the Rock of Gibraltar could weather down to a pebble while you’re goosing the Energi up to freeway speeds.
Consumer Reports Questions Ford Fuel Economy Claims
After testing Ford Fusion Hybrid and C-Max, Consumer Reports finds 10 mpg variance with advertised claims.
Wall Street Journal 07 Dec 2012
Ford’s hybrid Fusion sedan and C-Max wagon fall short of the company’s fuel economy claims, according to tests by Consumer Reports magazine. Both vehicles have ratings of 47 miles per gallon in city, highway and combined driving. But the magazine, which is known for no-nonsense vehicle tests, said the Fusion delivered 39 mpg overall and the C-Max logged 37 mpg during its evaluations.
The magazine said the two Fords have the biggest gaps between their EPA mileage estimates and their actual performance of any current models it has tested.
“After running both vehicles through our real-world tests, we have gotten very good results. But they are far below Ford’s ambitious triple-47 figures,” Consumer Reports said.
Ford said customers who truly focused on driving efficiently got results matching or exceeding its estimates. The company said the cars have “coaching” technology built in, including gauges that guide drivers in the proper use of throttle, brake and other features to maximize fuel economy.
“Early C-MAX Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid customers praise the vehicles and report a range of fuel economy figures, including some reports above 47 mpg,” the car maker said in a statement. “This reinforces the fact that driving styles, driving conditions, and other factors can cause mileage to vary.”
Auto experts for years have questioned fuel-economy ratings on numerous vehicles and many have suspected a certain degree of gamesmanship in the testing used to establish mileage estimates. Recently, however, the stakes have risen rapidly as fuel economy has become a major selling point for new cars. Critics say some companies take a fast-and-loose approach with fuel economy, testing in conditions that do not fairly represent real-world driving.
Last month the auto industry was shaken when Hyundai Motor Co. admitted to inflating fuel-economy ratings on certain models. Following that episode, industry insiders and consumers have been especially wary of mileage claims that seem too good to be true.
Here’s a Consumer Reports chart showing as-tested fuel economy for top-performing models:
Make & model
CR overall mpg
EPA combined mpg
Ford C-Max SE
Ford Fusion Hybrid SE
Toyota Prius C Two
Honda Civic Hybrid
Lexus ES 300h
Buick LaCrosse (4-cyl., eAssist)
Honda Insight EX
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
Lexus RX 450h
Lexus CT 200h
Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Toyota Prius V Three
Chevrolet Malibu Eco
Honda CR-Z EX (manual)
C-Max Is Serious Competitor to Prius 'v'
Sam Haymart test drive the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid and concludes it out performs Toyota's Prius v and is more fun to drive.
Examiner.com 28 Nov 2012
Today we took our first drive in Ford's new C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid to sample their new competitor to Toyota's Prius v. Does the new C-Max rise to all the hype and make you smile like the cute cartoon guy on the TV commercials? It just might.
The C-Max is a new versatile people mover that is not quite a minivan, not an SUV, nor a station wagon. Instead it's a tall kind of combination of all three, combining the best traits of all. Its chassis is low like a car, but its capacity more like a small SUV. Its styling, well more cool than a mini van.
Ford's new C-Max replaces last year's Escape Hybrid, which now only comes in a gasoline model. The C-Max only comes in a hybrid or plug-in hybrid known as the Energi. The strategy is much akin to Toyota's with the Prius line.
The C-Max and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid seats five and offer a generous cargo area in the rear. From behind the wheel you notice a premium interior cabin all around you. Ford has really stepped up its game in design appeal and the quality of materials. The C-Max of course is loaded to the brim with infotainment and connectivity features through its MyFord Touch and SYNC systems.
The instrument cluster is an artful convergence of form and function, with pleasing curves and angles that fit together well and tight. Controls however are still easy to find and understand. Starting the C-Max of course begins with the start button, taking off happens by selecting Drive with a conventional gear shift lever.
The C-Max Energi behaves as a full electric car when switched in EV Mode, at least until its battery reserves are depleted. At that point it behaves and functions as a hybrid, utilizing its gasoline engine off and on in combination with its electric motor.
The power-train is comprised of a 141 horsepower 2.0 liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and a 118 horsepower permanent magnet motor. The two combined can deliver a class leading 188 system horsepower via Ford's new constantly variable transmission (CVT).
In our drive we started out in EV mode to get a good feel for its power and performance. When the battery is charged the C-Max Energi can go up to 22 miles as a full electric. With two passengers on board, the power was surprisingly good, chirping the tires from a stop with too heavy a foot. Power delivery is smooth and quiet in EV mode.
While we had batter reserves, we switched to hybrid mode which allowed us to get a good feel for the new hybrid drive system. The gasoline engine is well muted and refined in its starting and stopping, such that at first our only indication it was running and powering us, was the power meter on the instrument cluster.
Under full power you get a thrum in the distance as the engine powers through the CVT in combination with the electric motors. Power is good and refined in a way the Toyota will have to work to meet with their Prius family. Ford has raised the bar to be sure.
Handling is solid and buttoned down as we have come to expect from Ford. The electric power steering is direct and weighted well. Braking is predictable and linear in a way that is surprising in a hybrid vehicle. Many hybrids which have regenerative braking have brakes that are difficult to learn and modulate smoothly, not an issue here at all.
We liked the information displays that Ford has created in the instrument cluster which allow you to select your own favorite information sets. We favored the dual power meter which shows both the power level for the gasoline and electric motors together. It lets you see how your driving style is being handled, and even coaches you to be more efficient if you dare.
When it comes to gas mileage, the C-Max hybrid is rated at a phenomenal 47 mpg highway, city and combined. When you step up to the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid you get that additional battery capacity which you then average electric power into the mix.
That takes you into MPGe land, where the EPA rates the C-Max Energi at 108 MPGe city, 92 MPGe highway, and 102 MPGe combined. Don't try and compute MPGe too hard as it's a mathematical theorem that will hurt your brain. Just know that it's a miles-per-gallon equivalent rating that takes into account electric charging and equates it to mpg so people can compare with traditional vehicles.
The Lithium Ion battery will take 2.5 hours to charge on a 240v charger and 7 hours if you plug it into your 110V outlet. Like the Chevy Volt which shares much in common relative to functionality, if you can't charge it up, you always have the gasoline engine to get you on your way in the morning.
Pricing for the C-Max starts at $28,200 and the Energi plug-in hybrid at $32,950. Does the uptick for the Energi model pencil? Well it could. Like all plug-in hybrids what you get out of it depends on your daily drive cycle.
If you drive within its electric range mostly and rarely buy gas, then yes it pencils well. If you have a 100 mile daily commute, it still saves but you you have to do some math to determine whether the additional $4,750 will come back to you in gas savings during ownership.
Did we like it? Yes. Ford shows with the new C-Max and C-Max Energi that they are serious about taking over the mantle of "Hybrid King" from Toyota. The vehicle not only out performs Toyota Prius v in every measure, but it's far more fun to drive. Oh, and you can't get a Prius v in a plug in model.
Ford's Fusion: A Hybrid Done Right Despite Electronic Glitches
Lawrence Ulrich finds the Fusion Hybrid's profusion of electronics glitchy.
NY Times 03 Nov 2012
Electronic technology can be a double-edge sword, as Ford might attest after recent close shaves. The automaker’s glitchy Sync and MyFord Touch infotainment systems — co-developed, unsurprisingly, with Microsoft — have provoked jeremiads from consumers and critics and have contributed to the brand’s steep drop in consumer reliability ratings.
Now comes Ford hybrid technology that dazzles, even as its user interfaces continue to baffle. The 2013 Fusion Hybrid has the most robust, transparent and enjoyable hybrid system I’ve tested in a nonluxury automobile.
This gas-electric Ford also starts at a compelling $27,995, though my fully stuffed test car came to $34,770. But the number that Ford will plaster on every highway billboard is 47 m.p.g., the federal rating in both city and highway driving. That is a new high for a midsize family sedan, leaving even the Toyota Camry Hybrid (at 43 city, 39 highway) behind at the pump.
In my test car, MyFord Touch never froze, and it seemed to work a beat faster than before. It was all so very impressive. Until, that is, electronic safety systems unrelated to MyFord Touch — the collision and lane-keeping monitors — went haywire on Route 301 near Carmel, N.Y.
First, the optional radar-based forward collision warning system (included with the $995 adaptive cruise control system) began flashing its red lights on the windshield, even when no cars or obstacles were in the same ZIP code. I counted about 20 false alarms over a long drive.
Next, the camera-based lane-keeping monitor, which can vibrate the steering wheel to nudge daydreaming pilots and even impart wheel resistance to restore the proper path, began beeping or failing to beep unpredictably. That system is part of a $1,000 Driver Assist Package, whose other main feature is a monitor that alerts drivers to traffic in blind spots or crossing from the rear.
In the final indignity, the Fusion’s MyKey system, unbidden so far as I could tell, decided to limit the car’s top speed to 80 m.p.h. and restricted the audio system to less than half of the maximum volume. Parents can program such features into the car’s key to safeguard teenagers who don’t recognize limits or mortality.
My Fusion Hybrid had become futuristic in a way Ford hadn’t planned, seizing my ship like the mutinous HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
The safety monitors eventually gave up, displaying malfunction messages. At that point, I noted the odometer: the Fusion had traveled just 1,854 miles and still had a tang of new-car smell.
Having suffered other technical issues with recent Fords, my message to the company requires no chips or software, just a Sharpie with which I would scrawl this: Get your electronic house in order, Ford, before your reputation becomes as inoperable as your systems.
The electronic hijinks are a particular shame because in other respects the Fusion Hybrid sent the opposite message: that Ford’s sophisticated hybrid technology bows to no one.
Compared with the departing model, this Hybrid mates a smaller, stingier gas engine with a more powerful electric motor. That motor is housed within an impressively compact, seamless, continuously variable transmission. That transmission, being made in-house at a Detroit area plant, replaces a unit previously sourced from Japan. It will power a range of Detroit-made hybrids and plug-ins, including C-Max wagons and Lincoln MKZ Hybrids.
The 2-liter, 141-horsepower engine pairs with an electric traction motor for total system power of 188 horses.
The robust power unit — delivering 117 pound-feet of instant torque — lets the Fusion go as fast as 62 miles per hour on electricity alone, up from 47 m.p.h. previously — another record for any hybrid. That lets the Ford spend more travel time on its lithium-ion battery, bolstering efficiency.
And unlike many hybrids, the Fusion isn’t a chore to drive. It’s not the fastest sedan, but it’s never stingy or tentative with power. You can tell it’s a hybrid, yet the steering is surprisingly weighty and natural. The brake pedal is a model for other hybrids, transitioning smoothly from its electric-regenerative function to mechanical stopping power.
The battery steals some trunk space; the Hybrid has 12 cubic feet compared with 16 for other Fusions. The fuel tank shrinks as well, to 13.5 gallons versus 17.5 for gas-only models with front-wheel drive.
The Hybrid also integrates four driver-selectable data screens, including sprouting green leaves, to coach drivers to fuel-saving heights.
I piled up my own leaves, but couldn’t match those eye-popping estimates. Yet a light foot kept the Ford between 41 and 45 m.p.g. even in town.
Come spring, Ford will cap the midsize lineup with the Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid whose gas-equivalent economy rating should top 100 m.p.g.e., surpassing the less-roomy Toyota Prius plug-in and the Chevrolet Volt.
This strong, wide-ranging Fusion lineup could still be a momentum booster for Ford, which has enjoyed a postrecession run of sales and consumer buzz. Let’s hope that electronic hiccups aren’t a buzzkill for buyers who expect reliability to match the cars’ terrific style, performance and economy.
Ford's C-MAX Hybrid Seen Besting Toyota's Prius
Toronto Star reviewer Jil McIntosh finds Ford's new hybrid entry to best the Prius in performance, handling and interior.
Toronto Star/Canada 09 Sep 2012
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIF.—After a few minutes of staring out my hotel window onto Sunset Boulevard, it looks like every fifth car on the road — between the Maseratis and Bentleys, of course — is a Toyota Prius.
Ford wants to change that.
Its weapon of choice is the 2013 C-Max Hybrid, an all-new compact wagon/crossover that goes on sale this fall, intended to do battle with the similarly-configured Toyota Prius V.
Following its introduction, Ford will then release the C-Max Energi, a plug-in version that will run for about 32 kilometres on a stored charge and then automatically default to regular hybrid operation. It’s similar to the Prius Plug-In, which goes about 22 km on each charge.
The C-Max comes in two trim lines, the SE at $27,199, and the SEL at $30,199. (By comparison, the Prius V runs $27,200 to $36,875.) The Energi will come only in top-line SEL trim, at $36,999, but, by virtue of its plug-in capability, will qualify for a $5,808 rebate in Ontario. The C-Max is strictly a hybrid for now, but Ford hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a conventional gasoline-only version at some time in the future.
It’s built on Ford’s global C platform, which also underpins the Focus and Escape. The C-Max substitutes for the now-discontinued Escape Hybrid, which cost $38,599 to $45,999 for the 2012 editions.
If you saw the C-Max that debuted at the Toronto auto show in 2011, you may be wondering what happened. We were originally supposed to get a seven-seat compact minivan with sliding doors, sold overseas as the Grand C-Max. But when research suggested North American buyers weren’t all that interested, this hybrid version of the Grand’s five-seat little brother was substituted.
Under the hood is a 2.0 L four-cylinder engine, mated to an electric motor and continuously variable transmission. A lithium-ion battery, charged by regenerative braking and the gas engine, handles the electricity needs. Under the right conditions, the C-Max can run on the battery alone at speeds of up to 100 km/h.
The gasoline engine makes 141 horsepower by itself, and the combined gas/electric system produces 188. The Prius V has a combined rating of 134 hp and poorer fuel economy, although the difference is small enough — 4.0 L/100 km in combined city/highway driving for C-Max, versus 4.4 for Prius V — that it really comes down to bragging rights.
The real difference is in the driving experience, as a short comparison test drive proved. The C-Max is considerably quieter and has stronger acceleration when needed, its handsome interior is far more attractive than the Prius V’s plastic jumble, and it has a real gearshift lever to the Prius’ annoyingly odd tap-shifter.
It also has far more steering feel than the Prius. Although it is heavy for its size, it doesn’t feel cumbersome, and handles curves very well. Both Toyota and Ford make equally good hybrid systems, smoothly transitioning between gasoline and electricity, and maximizing battery-only driving whenever possible.
The C-Max’s ride is smooth and stable, and it’s a nice driver on the highway. Unless you’re looking at the configurable instrument cluster — which does everything from grow leaves when you drive efficiently to coaching you on how to brake for maximum battery charge — you might not even realize you’re in a hybrid.
Instead, it’s a pleasant little wagon that feels like a regular car, but with far better fuel economy.
The Prius V wins for cargo, boasting an additional 277 litres of space behind its second-row seat, thanks to its longer length. Almost devoid of front-row cubbies, the C-Max definitely falls short in small-item storage, too.
There’s more at the back, with bins hidden under the cargo floor, and shallow tubs in the floor ahead of the rear seats. The 60/40 rear seat folds completely flat, and in one motion once you pull a handle.
The foot-operated liftgate introduced on the new Escape is optional on the SEL trim, bundled with a rearview camera. If the proximity key is in your pocket, kicking your foot under the bumper opens or closes the power liftgate. It’s a nice feature when your hands are full, and the sensors are “leg-specific” so a pet walking under won’t set it off.
The base trim line is decently kitted out, including alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, driver’s knee airbag, USB port, capless fuel fill, and SYNC voice activation.
The top-line SEL adds several goodies including heated leather seats, satellite radio, rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors, auto-dimming mirror, and MyFord Touch, a too-fiddly touch-screen for the entertainment, climate, and phone functions.
Available options include navigation, premium stereo, and Ford’s self-parking feature, which scouts out spots and then controls the steering wheel to parallel-park the car.
In the battle with the Prius V, the C-Max is the clear winner for its performance, handling, and interior appointments.
But hybrids are still only a tiny sliver of the market overall and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. If you’re willing to spend extra to get a gas/electric vehicle, be sure to check this one out.
Driving Ford's New Focus Electric
David Booth shares his experiences driving Ford's new all-electric car.
National Post/Canada 18 Dec 2011
Wayne, Mich. -- I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not — or even much of a surprise — but much of Ford’s focus (pardon the bad pun) on its new electric vehicle is all about range. I suspect that, like most things, all the customizable apps and navigational systems will prove a boon to some and anathema to others. At the very least, all those electronic widgets encourage a commitment to changing one’s driving habits common only to the dedicated enviro-weenie.
For instance, there’s an app (these days, isn’t there always?) for your iPhone, BlackBerry or Android that lets you not only monitor your Focus’s battery level from anywhere (useful from an airport in, say, Spain, to check if you have enough juice to get home when landing back in Canada) but also schedule charging to minimize electricity costs.
The same app will find local charging stations (presuming there are any) and even keep a running tab on your CO2 emissions and money saved by motoring so virtuously on electricity.
You can even — and this is by far the coolest feature — pre-heat (or cool, if it’s summer) the Focus Electric’s cabin before you drive away. The MyFord app does this, because the Electric’s range is maximized if the interior has been acclimatized while plugged in rather than wasting precious battery charge to do it. Personally, I think it’s just cool to be able to climb into a nice, toasty-warm cabin for the morning commute.
There’s even a braking “coach” on board. A display in the instrument cluster tells you when you’re maximizing regenerative braking. (As with all aspects of EV and hybrid optimization, easy does it. Longer, gentler braking periods are more effective at recharging the battery than short, abrupt stops.) Even the Focus EV’s navigational system gets in on this range-extending customization. With an EcoRoute function, you can choose an alternative path to your desired destination that wastes fewer electrons, extending the car’s range a smidgen.
More prophetic, though, is the “Can I get there?” function. As useful as it may be, however, it may also be a constant reminder of the EV’s shortcomings. And, naturally, the Focus EV has to have a little display telling the driver how virtuously he or she is driving. In Ford’s case, it’s a series of blue butterflies — the more butterflies you have, the more of a “butterfly effect — in which a small change can have an enormous impact.” Or so it says in Ford’s press material.
Of course, the Focus EV is more than just computerized gizmos. Underneath its more aggressive skin (the deep, shark-like front grille makes it look très sporty), there’s a 23-kilowatt hour lithium ion battery. Like the Chevrolet Volt — and unlike the Nissan Leaf — Ford uses a radiator-like system to heat or cool the battery to maintain a constant temperature, the company’s engineers finding the more consistent climate conducive to long battery life.
Those 23 kWh are said to power the 107-kW (143-horsepower) electric motor for about 150 kilometres, about the median for current EV technology. Ford says the Focus can attain a 135-km-an-hour top speed, although exercising that performance frequently will dramatically drop its projected 160-km maximum range. Ford also says that the Focus’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency miles-per-gallon-e rating exceeds 100 miles per U.S. gallon (2.35 litres per 100 km), which is best in class.
One aspect of the Focus EV that Ford is justifiably proud of is that the car’s 23-kWh lithium ion battery can be recharged in three to four hours on a 240-volt system compared with the six to eight hours the Nissan Leaf requires at the same voltage. Credit the larger onboard 6.6-kW charger compared with the Nissan’s 3.3-kW item.
The 240-volt chargers for the Focus will cost about $1,500 to $2,000 (though British Columbia and Quebec are offering cost-offsetting subsidies for the chargers as they are on the EVs themselves). But the Focus can be recharged using a common 110-volt household outlet, though it will take much longer.
As much as Ford will be trumpeting the miracle that is the Focus EV, the true strength of Ford’s new electrified lineup is the depth of its choices. Ford calls it its Power of Choice program.
For instance, the soon to be introduced C-MAX will be available only in hybrid and plug-in hybrid guises, although both can be built on the same production line as the Focus EV, allowing Ford to easily adjust production volumes according to demand.
Ford also promises the Energi plug-in version of the C-Max will offer better overall fuel economy than Toyota’s new plug-in Prius and, with an overall 800-km range, it can travel farther on a tank of gas than Chevrolet’s Volt, according to the automaker.
Ford adds that the C-MAX Energi has a pure EV mode that allows it to travel up to 32 km on electric power alone. It, too, has a customizable app that monitors the lithium ion battery’s charge status and range. As for the basic C-MAX Hybrid, it also uses a new lithium ion battery and an electric motor in conjunction with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine (the same as in the Energi’s).
Ford of Canada is not releasing pricing on the new C-MAX lineup yet, but the automaker says the Focus EV will retail for $41,199. That’s a few thousand dollars more than Nissan’s base Leaf, but, according to Steve Ross, Ford’s product marketing manager, sustainability and electrification, it’s much better equipped. Indeed, Ross says the Focus EV is so well equipped in standard trim that there are only three options available — leather seats, metallic paint and a cargo management system.
Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that the Volt extended-range electric vehicle has a retail price of $41,545 and has none of the range limitations of a pure electric vehicle.
Ford's New Focus EV Boosts Eco-Friendly Features
Besides being electrically-driven, the Focus electric incorporates recycled and renewable materials.
The College Driver 21 Jan 2011 The environmentally friendly reach of the Ford Focus Electric goes beyond its zero-emissions motor. Focus Electric combines recycled and renewable materials, green technologies and innovative manufacturing processes to make the car green from bumper to bumper.
“An electric vehicle is already considered a green vehicle, but Ford wanted to go a step further by looking at ways to make the materials inside the Focus Electric more eco-friendly as well,” said Carrie Majeske, product sustainability manager, Ford Motor Company. “Using recycled or renewable materials in lieu of petroleum-based materials allows Ford to minimize the amount of virgin materials used in the Focus Electric.”
The Focus Electric is not only green in areas where customers expect it to be, but also in places they might not, like in the seat cushions. Soy-based foams, which are used on more than 20 Ford vehicles, will be used in Focus Electric, with seat cushions shaped from 8 percent soy-based content. A material called Lignotock also is used behind the cloth on the door. Derived from 85 percent wood fibers, this lighter application results in a weight reduction and provides better sound-deadening benefits compared to conventional glass-reinforced thermal plastics.
“One of the more impactful things we are doing is finding a way to increase the use of recycled materials in resins. We have a strategy that specifies the use of a large quantity of post-consumer recycled material in a range of plastic applications,” said Majeske. “Pop bottles and milk jugs eventually become part of components like underbody shields, wheel arch liners and air cleaner assemblies.”
By using more recycled content in resins, Ford can further reduce the amount of oil-based plastics in vehicles. This also cuts down on overall oil consumption. Applications of the post-consumer plastics also include carpets, roof lining and replacement bumpers.
Ford, Detroit Edison and Xtreme Power are teaming up to establish one of Michigan’s largest solar power generation systems and electric vehicle charging stations at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., where Focus Electric will be produced. Ford will work with Detroit Edison to install a 500-kilowatt solar photovoltaic panel system, which will be integrated with a 750-kilowatt energy storage facility that can store 2 million watt-hours of energy using batteries – enough to power 100 average homes for a year.
Several new and innovative production processes at the plant will help make the vehicle even greener. For example, a new three-wet paint process applies all three coats of finish in sequence before oven curing, ensuring high-quality paint finish and a significant reduction in energy use.
With charging playing a major role in Focus Electric ownership, Ford also looked to make the vehicle’s home charging stations greener. Jointly developed with Leviton, a leading North American producer of electrical devices, Ford is offering a charging unit that has an outer shell made from up to 60 percent post-consumer recycled material.