C-Max Energi Plug-in Costs Less than Hybrid, After Incentives

By · January 28, 2013

Ford C-Max Energi

Here’s a new twist on the price premium argument against buying a car that plugs into the grid. Ford priced the plug-in version of the C-Max so close to the conventional hybrid version that—after considering federal and state incentives, as well as trim packages—shoppers can drive away with the plug-in at virtually the same price.

As usually, the devil is in the details. With three different add-on premium packages available for the C-Max Hybrid, shoppers with sharp pencils might make a different argument. But considering that a loaded C-Max Hybrid SEL tops out at $30,000, and the base price of the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid is $33,745, the difference in the price of admission for the two vehicles is less than $4,000.

When you subtract a federal tax credit of $3,750 for the Energi, and a $1,500 cash rebate from California, you actually come ahead from Day One with the plug-in model. Every day after that, especially for drivers with commutes within the 21-mile EV range of the Energi, the cost of electric fuel is less than half the cost of gasoline. Also, the estimated efficiency jumps from 47 MPG in the hybrid, to 100 MPGe in the plug-in. (For now, let's leave aside higher resale value, or external benefits like reduced emissions.)

There are trade-offs. Buyers would be forgoing some of those luxury features, like premium audio, heated seats, and hands-free liftgate, in exchange for keeping the price of the plug-in to the same level as the hybrid. Also, the hatch cargo space in the plug-in drops from 52.6 cubic feet to 42.8 cubic feet.

Nonetheless, the price premium for an EV or plug-in hybrid is often characterized as 2X that of an internal combustion model. The media usually compares the Chevy Volt to the Chevy Cruze. And I criticized G.M. for pricing the Chevy Spark EV at $32,000, when the gas-powered version starts at $12,000. Ford breaks ranks by showing that a plug-in with a relatively modest battery pack and all-electric range doesn’t necessarily have to cost that much more. (Ford pioneered this concept when it priced the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid at exact same price as the conventional version).

Now, Ford needs to support its attractive plug-in pricing with the right marketing. That has not really been happening. In November 2012 and December 2012, the C-Max Hybrid outsold the plug-in Energi by about three-to-one. There are logical reasons, most notably limited supply of the Energi. “Consumers, as well as dealers and salespeople, are also more familiar with hybrids than plug ins,” explained Alan Baum, an auto market analyst, in an email to me this morning. “The reduced cargo capacity is of particular importance to the buyers that are being pitched for this vehicle.”

Fair enough, but the near-parity of the pricing is still noteworthy—and signals a shift. We can now look at the C-Max models and see how the two biggest criticisms against plug-ins—higher cost and limited range—can be reduced and eventually eliminated. And how the shift will affect the numbers of plug-in models on the road.


· · 5 years ago

I guess Brad sounds like a Ford salesman...

Energi models have less space, worse performance and lower MPG rating in the extended range while it cost more (unless you live in California).

Yet. That was fine. But you managed to bash the Volt and Spark EV at the same time with you silly logic. Don't you get the fact that more battery/more electric range will cost you more in return? I thought you are a "true" plugin fans. I guess you are just a Ford fan then. You are comparing a Hybrid vs. a hybrid+plugin. That is completely different from comparing a WAY cheaper ICE vs, Plugin. If you can't understand that difference, you shouldn't write for plugin.com. Similarily, it is like comparing a PIP vs. a regular Prius. Why don't you compare a PIP vs. a Matrix then? Or comparing a C-Max Energi vs. a regular Focus Hatchback?

Spark EV cost more the Spark ICE b/c it is way better in driving dynamic, it has more power, more torque, better accleration and lower noise level. Similarly equipped and after tax credits, the difference is only around $5k in California.

Your bias against GM's plugin offering is seriously mind boggling. And your repeated bashing against the Spark EV (which you have yet to drive) is also seriously concerning...

· · 5 years ago

I think it is great that the plugin C-Max Hybrid will be competitively priced. Despite its possible disadvantages (on paper anyway) I think that like the Volt and the Prius Plugin, it will allow drivers to go an amazingly long way on a tank of gasoline. The first electric-only mile is the most important one.

I'd like to propose something for Plugin Cars to do: we need a public pledge for all of us to put our names on - that our next car will have a plug! :-)


· · 5 years ago


As I read the article I don't see what you are seeing. I think this article is very pro-EV and not Pro-Ford necessarily or anti-Volt, either. I agree with the author that the Spark's price is unfortunate considering the competition. Maybe you could reread the article and see it's angle for moving electric driving forward.

· · 5 years ago


Okay, maybe it is NOT anti Volt or Spark. But why compare C-Max vs C-Max Energi while he compares Spark and Spark EV or Cruze vs Volt?

That is apple to orange. Comparing hybrid to plugin is different than comparing ICE to plugin...

· · 5 years ago

Let me clarify: I wrote "The media usually compares the Chevy Volt to the Chevy Cruze." The media, meaning not me, in this context. I could have spelled out that this comparison is weak, and is not apples-to-apples--but I thought it would be fairly obvious. I've seen price comparisons of the LEAF with a Versa, which is even more ridiculous.

EVs are far superior in terms of the features they usually come with, the silent drive they offer, better handling due to low center of gravity, less maintenance, more efficiency, cheaper fueling, etc. I suppose I repeat these things so many times that I don't write them in every article.

That said, I'll still maintain that the relative cost of a very small EV like the Spark has to be in a tolerable range compared to the distorted-mismatched-apples-to-oranges-media-comparisons that many consumers (except for the most hardcore early adopters) will make.

So, given the distortions that are out there, it's fascinating and important to see the C-Max with a plug, bigger battery and 20 miles of EV range get priced lower (after incentives) than the hybrid version without a plug and with a battery that is a fraction the size.

I'm not dissing any carmaker on purpose. Just trying to call things out.

Plug = Good
Car with plug at a compelling price compared to one without a plug = better

· · 5 years ago

Brad - thanks for the piece. We got the C-Max Energi in part for this reason. We were committed to getting a plug-in to be charged by our overbuilt PV solar system, and after having a reservation for the Model S and realizing it was not well within our range of affordability, we saw that the C-Max Energi would take care of most of our needs (as a one-car household we wanted something with range even though it is mostly an in-town commuting car). The upside is that it is fun to drive, is easy to get in and out of, and feels very roomy inside, especially for tall people. A minor correction - the base C-Max Energi model comes with heated seats. But, more importantly, you're correct that its net price is less (considerably less in CA) than the C-Max Hybrid SEL with almost precisely the same trim. We've gone 1070 miles on 17 gallons (and an unknown number of KWhs since I don't have a meter on the charger yet). Our one road trip so far was at 44 MPG after taking out the all-electric range (48 MPG if it is included), staying at about 65 MPH most of the time. Judging by the gauges, driving faster looks like it drops the MPG quickly, as many people are reporting.

· · 5 years ago

@ModernMarvelFan, According to Fuelly.com ENERGI owners are actually recording above EPA estimates as far as MPG goes. The only thing you really loose in the C-Max Energi is the cargo space, If your consistant on plugging-in and short distances, you could be little to no use of gas, making it above and beyond the C-Max Hybrid. Bigger battery, longer EV miles... Win Win.

· · 5 years ago

@Justin H,

I am NOT saying that C-Max Energi is a bad car. It is in fact a very good car and way more appealing than a Prius plugin. I just said that it is worse in MPG (EPA rated) and performance than a regular C-Max and has less space while it cost more before CA tax incentive. Sometimes, people don't want to give up space and performance just for "plugin" capabilities...

But comparing a hybrid to its plugin version is different than comparing an ICE to its plugin version. [Just b/c other idiotic media do it, it doesn't make it right.] B/c it cost more to upgrade an ICE to hybrid and additional cost to upgrade a hybrid to a plugin. So, it is NOT the same comparison.

· · 5 years ago

@ Solar Fan, I envy you. Like parts of the US, here in Australia we have abundant sunshine in most areas and there are now over 1 million homes with solar power systems. Residential systems of 4-5 kW cost just $US7,000-8,000 and payback times have gone below 5 years. Since new installations no longer attract decent feed-in tariffs, many homes with PV are selling their excess electricity back to the grid for just 8c per kWh. Unfortunately, as yet there are no reasonably priced plug in hybrids on the market here similar to the C-max. The GM Volt costs over $60,000 here and there are no government incentives. I'm sure there are many households with PV who would just love to use their excess solar power to cut down on transport costs. The range of 40-50 km provided by these plug in vehicles is more than adequate for most city dwellers. With the massive expansion of residential solar system PV, I feel car companies down under are missing out on a potentially lucrative market. Many of us can't wait to stick it to the oil companies.

· · 5 years ago

@ PVE, I hear you. We hatched this plan a few years back, hoping that the electrified vehicle segment would finally have something on offer that we liked and could buy. It is astounding how little commercial development there has been of the plug-in hyrbid concept given that the idea has roots in the early 1970s (see and ). We looked at the Leaf, then the Volt, then the Model S, and finally came to the C-Max Energi since it had the combination of attributes that worked well for us. Happy to have our hands on one. It does feel very good to reduce our gas consumption by more than 2/3 relative to our previous car. In town is all electric, and our city has a few charging stations where we get both "free" (to us) electricity and a good spot. More broadly, though, my wife and I have been travelling in Europe recently and seeing the fuel efficient wagons like the C-Max there (though it is not a hybrid there) and kept wondering why we couldn't get those kinds of cars, especially the turbodiesels, here in the US. Ford made a good move bringing that kind of body here, finally. Hopefully they'll see the possibiities in Australia for the PHEV as well.

· · 5 years ago

Just ordered a 2013 C-Max Energi. Selling my Prius to my son and daughter-in-law. I drive eight miles to work one way and have a garage that I can pull into and charge the vehicle both at home and at work. I was very happy with the Prius and did not want to let it out of the family. The larger battery on the C-max Energi sold me over the Prius plug-in. I have had Ford products in the past and was happy with them. I am a very large person and was not comfortable getting in and out of the Volt. No problem with the Prius or C-Max.

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