Ford C-Max Energi Operates As Pure Electric Car for First 20 Miles

By · August 14, 2012

Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid

Mea Culpa. Last week, I criticized Ford for hyping up the capabilities of its upcoming C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. I was wrong. I wrote that Ford marketers used trumped up numbers to make the C-Max Energi appear a lot more capable than the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. After speaking with John Davis, the chief engineer for the C-Max in North America, I learned that the C-Max Energi is indeed substantially more capable of driving purely as an EV than the Prius Plug-in—and its technology is in fact an innovative step forward for plug-in hybrids.

In a press release issued last week, Ford said that C-Max Energi’s 20 miles of all-electric capability compare to the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid’s 6 miles. I have driven the plug-in Prius on several occasions—including a three-day loan—and experienced about 11 miles of all-electric driving. That number matches the official overarching EPA number for electric range—although the finer print on the window label indicates only 6 miles of pure-electric range. I enjoyed driving the car, but my major criticism of the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid was its lack of a true “keep this thing in all-electric mode” button. That is exactly what Ford is providing—using the term “EV Now”—in the C-Max Energi. And this feature is what makes Ford’s comparison of 20 miles of pure EV driving in the C-Max Energi a fair comparison to the Prius Plug-in Hybrid’s relatively wimpy all-electric experience.

Let’s leave aside the convoluted formula the EPA uses to determine what’s on the label. Toyota makes no bones about how the Prius Plug-in Hybrid takes a blended gas-electric approach, calling the gas engine into service any time the driver steps into the accelerator pedal with any sense of urgency. Based on my experiences in the car, the gas engine comes on all the time—when climbing a moderate hill, speeding across traffic, or at high speeds. The overall efficiency of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid is remarkable, often exceeding 100 miles per gallon—but it does not drive or feel like an electric car. In fact, Toyota internally refers to the PIP as a “super hybrid.”

On the other hand, by virtue of the “EV Now” button, Ford gives C-Max Energi drivers the opportunity to go about 20 miles without using a single drop of gasoline. “When you go into EV Now mode, you are literally locking out the engine pull-up, and driving on battery performance,” said Davis. “Even if you go to fast acceleration, almost a wide-open throttle situation, you will get full battery capability, and we will prevent the engine from coming on.”

With Press of a Button, More Like a Volt

This feature makes the C-Max Energi much more like a Chevrolet Volt, offering a pure EV experience for the first 20 miles (compared to the Volt’s 35 or so miles). C-Max Energi drivers can also use the “EV Later” button, similar to the Volt’s Mountain Mode, to save grid-supplied energy for later use—or keep the vehicle in “EV Auto” mode, in which the vehicle operates more like the conventional C-Max hybrid. (Keep in mind that the C-Max Hybrid is rated at 47 miles per gallon, compared a 37-mpg rating for the Volt’s charge-sustaining mode.)

When EV Now mode is utilized, the C-Max will stay all-electric—except when zooming down the highway above 85 miles per hour; when the state-of-charge of the 7.5-kWh battery pack gets low enough to begin transition from charge-depletion to charge-sustaining; or for the “very rare event” of high battery temperature. During full-throttle events below 85 mph, and while in EV Now mode, a dashboard prompt will appear, asking the driver to continue in all-electric mode or to switch into the EV automatic mode.

Davis believes that the finished EPA label, now in process, will produce a favorable apples-to-apples comparison of the C-Max Energi and Plug-in Prius. Where the Prius shows 6 miles of pure-electric range and 11 miles of total all-electric range, the C-Max Energi will indicate 20 miles for both metrics, according to Davis.

Sized for EV Operation

Last February, when I asked Toyota why it didn’t include a “keep it in EV mode no matter what” function, I was told that it’s a safety issue—that the Prius Plug-in Hybrid needed to employ the gas engine as well as the electric motor to have enough power to maneuver out of potentially dangerous situations.

But according to Ford’s Davis, the peak output of the C-Max Energi’s electric propulsion system, as well as its battery architecture and control strategy have been sized appropriately for all-EV driving. “You’re going to drive much like you would a true electric vehicle to the limit of the battery capability,” he said. “We believe we have adequate performance capability under that true EV drive cycle, otherwise we wouldn’t offer it.” Davis said the output and limits of the C-Max Energi, while driving like an EV, is “a safe and effective drive capability.” Whereas with the plug-in Prius, “you couldn’t get to the same levels of acceleration,” he said.

So, it appears that the Ford C-Max Energi provides a new variation on the plug-in hybrid theme—somewhere between the “super hybrid” blended approach of the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and the “extended-range electric vehicle” strategy of the Chevrolet Volt. It’s a plug-in hybrid, capable of working like a pure electric car for drivers with a round-trip commute of 20 miles or less, and beyond that like one of the most fuel-efficient hybrids on the road.

The post-incentive price of the C-Max Energi, which goes on sale this fall, is just below $30,000.


· Chris C. (not verified) · 6 years ago

Until they give us a POWER rating (in kW) of the electric drivetrain, I'm going to withhold judgement and have to assume that this is not much better than a Prius. Meaning it'll just wheeze down the road. Ford, give us the power rating already!

In the article, when you say the car's "EV Now" mode is "similar to the Volt’s Mountain Mode", I think that should read "similar to the Volt’s Hold Mode". I understand what you mean, having been a regular user of Mountain myself for "hold" purposes, but now that the Volt is out with Hold mode, that's the appropriate term and less confusing.

Finally, my biggest concern:

When EV Now mode is utilized, the C-Max will stay all-electric—except when zooming down the highway above 85 miles per hour; when the state-of-charge of the 7.5-kWh battery pack gets low enough to begin transition from charge-depletion to charge-sustaining

I think you are misstating the reason for the engine coming on. It's likely not because the SOC is low, it's because that smaller battery can deliver only so much POWER (kW). This is just as fundamental to EVs as battery ENERGY (kWh) storage. It was a factor in the strangely conservative sizing of the Volt battery -- it's not just energy that matters, it's power.

Hopefully you can get a POWER number out of Mr. Davis.

· · 6 years ago

@Chris C: "I think you are misstating the reason for the engine coming on..."

If read the entire sentence, I believe that was an either-or statement. Either the car is traveling over 85 mph, or the battery transitions to charge-sustaining (i.e., after 20 miles or so of travel)

This is exciting news to me. I am really excited about getting behind the wheel of this car!

· CharlesF (not verified) · 6 years ago

@Chris C: You do not have to wait for Mr. Davis. Just go to the Ford web site and look at the specs. In Charge Depletion Mode the battery out put is 68kW. It has been there for a least a week.

Ford has done the Energi right. The accelerator pedal overrides the mode, so that if you need to get out of the way of that 18 wheeler, you can without having to move a switch or push a button. Otherwise the car stays in the mode you want as long as it can.

If the C-Max Energi comes close to equaling the non-plug in hybrid's MPG numbers, the Energi will blow away the PIP as a substitute for a pure EV. Not as good as the Volt, but really good. It does blow away the Volt as a hybrid.

PIP, C-Max Energi, Volt and Leaf are just cars on a progression from hybrid to EV. Each step the gas MPG drops, but the pure EV range goes up. You just need to figure out which is best for your driving. Not as easy a task as it was just 18 months ago.

· · 6 years ago

Wow! It is great Kudos to Ford!
It is great to see EVs advancing!
It is a great achievement of Ford.

Just imagine, if EV tax credits are pulled away as we occasionally hear on the news, Ford C-Max would still be able to sell 2,000 per month while Volt sales would go down a lot.

· · 6 years ago

C-Max Hybrid is already on dealer's lots - ahead of schedule (originally they were suppose to come in fall):

May be we soon see C-Max Energi on dealer's lots too!

· Chris C. (not verified) · 6 years ago

Thanks CharlesF for that pointer! So now we can compare the electric drivetrain power capabilities of the cars:

Mitsubishi iMiEV: 47 kW power, 16 kWh energy
Toyota Prius Plug-In: 60 kW power, 4.4 kWh energy
Ford C-Max Energi: 68 kW power, 7.5 kWh energy
Nissan Leaf: 80 kW power, 24 kWh
Chevrolet Volt: 110 kW power, 16 kWh energy (10.5 kWh used)

Based strictly on a numbers comparison, the Energi doesn't seem that much more powerful than the PIP, but I don't doubt that it pulls noticeably better. And being able to tell the Energi to STAY in EV mode (via the "EV Now" mode) is a critical capability. Otherwise all you've got is a Prius :)

· · 6 years ago

Seriously, why is Ford copying my alias for their "EV Now" mode ? ;-)


It would be interesting to compare the Power/Weight ration for these plugins (BTW, a true comparison requires tourque rather than power).

· · 6 years ago

“Let’s leave aside the convoluted formula the EPA uses to determine what’s on the label.”
Let’s not. I believe the key to Toyota’s E+G (instead of electric only) has to do with the convoluted way that the labels are determined. I believe that during the charge depletion part of the test, the vehicle has to be able to follow the Federal Urban Drive Cycle (aka the city cycle) accelerations. If the vehicle can stay in electric only while following the city cycle than the electric part of the range is all electric (the Volt and apparently the Energi can do this). If the vehicle cannot follow the drive cycle, it has to list this number as an E+G range and apparently the PIP can’t follow the drive cycle without the gas engine. I think the story that “[the Prius] didn’t include a ‘keep it in EV mode no matter what’ function” was not a “safety issue—that the Prius Plug-in Hybrid needed to employ the gas engine as well as the electric motor to have enough power to maneuver out of potentially dangerous situations” but rather it couldn’t follow the trace. Safety is just a smoke screen that sound better than “our system is under-powered/under-torqued.

@Brad, this (how the label is determined) might be a good topic for an article. Maybe find someone that understands exactly how the EPA ratings are tested, calculated and adjusted for the labels. These questions come up every time there is a story that quotes range and MPGe.

@EVNow, I think I may change my name to EVLater. Or better yet, KeepItInEVModeNoMatterWhat

· · 6 years ago

EV Now: I thought about that when I first read it. I think they were paying homage to you for starting the C-Max Energi blog last year!

· · 6 years ago

"The accelerator pedal overrides the mode, so that if you need to get out of the way of that 18 wheeler, you can without having to move a switch or push a button. Otherwise the car stays in the mode you want as long as it can."

The Leaf also does this while in Eco mode, CharlesF. It's also good for about 75 miles on electricity instead of just 20. The other comment in your post regarding this and other REEVs being a progression from hybrid to (pure) EV is noted and appreciated, but I'm hoping we're not going to soon see a car that only offers 5 miles of electric-only range and have the nerve to call itself an "EV."

Beyond an "EV Now" button (copyright infringement, EVNow!,) I find it kind of ironic that the C-Max Energi has a button labeled "EV Later." I can only guess that this would take up less dash space than a button labeled "We'd rather sell you this car than a Focus EV." Better, I guess, than a button labeled "EV Never." Maybe that will be on next year's model.

OK . . . now that I've made disparaging remarks and jokes about REEV and plug-in-hybrid technology again, I'll sit back and wait for the sharp-tongued rebuttals.


· · 6 years ago

@ Benjamin Nead,
I know that an “EV Later” button sounds silly but there are many circumstances that you would want to postpone using your battery for a later time.
1. It is being proposed to have “low emission” zones and saving your battery until you enter these zones may be desired.
2. You may be driving on the highway beyond your electric only range and will be entering city driving toward the end of your drive. You may want to reserve the battery for the city driving where electric only is more efficient (or conversely, engine driving on the highway is more efficient).
3. You may be driving in the mountains. Switching to EV Later will stop you battery discharge and reserve it for an anticipated climb up a hill. This is why Brad compared it to the Mountain mode on the Volt.

There may be more reasons and I don’t find an EV Later mode to be ridiculous but rather a helpful tool in some circumstances.

· · 6 years ago

I'm thinking this C-Max Energi is sounding quite good. The Fusion Energi will also undoubtedly be a bit more efficient and just as good when it comes out too.

· Davemart (not verified) · 6 years ago

This sounds like a great effort by Ford.
What I am waiting for is clear pictures of the boot of the car, with the seats up and with them folded, so that the intrusion from the electric drive system can be properly judged.
Their shots when I looked a month or so ago showed everything but, which is suspicious!

· CharlesF (not verified) · 6 years ago

@Chris C. You misread the Toyota specs page.
From the part describing the electric motor: Output 80 hp (60 kW)

From the part describing the battery: Output EV 51 hp (38 kW); HV 36 hp (27 kW)

So the fair comparison for the PIP vs Energi is 38 vs 68kW in EV mode and 27 vs 35kW in HV mode.

The C-Max Energi is a lot more EV than the PIP.

@Benjamin Nead, I am also guilty of comparing apples to oranges. The plug in hybrids are not EVs and we really need to stop comparing them. They are meant for very different uses at this point in their development. Hopefully the EVs will get better batteries and be able to meet most peoples needs as an only car. When that happens we can go back to head to head comparisons.

· · 5 years ago

I am also concerned about the cargo area. From the web site:
Cargo Volume behind 2nd row seats (cu. ft.)
C-MAX Hybrid: 24.5
C-MAX Energi: 19.2
Cargo Volume behind 1st row seats (with 2nd row seats folded) (cu. ft.)
C-MAX Hybrid: 52.6
C-MAX Energi: 42.8

It looks like Ford "pulled a FFE" on this one too.

· UM (not verified) · 5 years ago

The Energi is almost 700 lbs heavier than PIP (3859 vs 3165 lbs). How would that effect the overall performance?
Energi is even slightly heavier than Volt (3781 lbs).

· Steve (not verified) · 5 years ago

Energi battery intrusion.
With a guess that the cargo area is approx 4.5 ft wide x 3 ft long I predict the battery intrusion to be:
Volume lost, dV = 24.5 - 19.2 = 5.3 ft^3
Intrusion, h = dV / (4.5 x 3) = 0.39 ft = 4.7 inches
As the the cargo volume lost behind the 1st row is 9.8 ft^3 I speculate that when folded the 2nd row seat back level is also about 4.7 inches above that achieved in the hybrid, creating a level floor for the Energi.
Is there a loss of headroom for 2nd row occupants in the Energi?

· CharlesF (not verified) · 5 years ago

@Steve; The Energi and Hybrid have identical passenger area measurements. The Energi is 0.1 inch lower (I assume the extra weight). The differences are in the cargo area.

I did a few calculations with different assumptions and came up with a loss of cargo height of between 1.75 and 4.5 inches. If it is over 4 inches I maybe buying the regular hybrid.

· · 5 years ago

I had posted a few thoughts about how the trunc & cargo room work in Energi on my Energi blog, which reproduce below.

But, the cargo volume when the rear seats is also lower in Energi than in Hybrid, not just by the 5.8 cu.ft. we see above but by a total of 11 cu. ft. That means when the seats are down, in Energi they would be higher than they are in the Hybrid. In both cases, Ford maintains a flat area when the seats are folded. That would mean the rear seats in Energi should be fitted higher than in the Hybrid, which would mean the head room in Energi should be lower than the Hybrid since both the cars are of the same height, right ? Wrong ! Both Energi & the Hybrid have the same head room of 39.4" !

So, what is happening here ?

I think Ford pulls off this feet by making the rear seat fold down slightly differently in Hybrid & Energi. In the Hybrid, you first put the lower cushions down and then put the back of the seat down. This keeps the final height of the rear seat when folded lower. In Energi the back of the seats just fold down on to the lower cusions. That keeps the top of the folded seats higher and in level with the higher trunc.

· · 5 years ago

Right now this Ford C-max energi is obviously a better buy then the Prius V. The Prius V has no plug capability at all and if it does its EV range will be similar to the one of the Plug-in Prius, thus shorter than that of the Ford C-max energy. Toyota should now start to consider the true RE-EV strategy. A Volt with a serial configuration and a micro generator shoebox size.

· Giuseppe (not verified) · 5 years ago

About the cargo volume, look at the picture of the C-Max (Energi?) interior at:

which shows that the luggage space behind the rear seats is elevated quite a lot. As a very rough guess, I estimated a width of 45 inches, a height of 25 inches, and a length of 30 inches. This gives a volume of 19.5 cubic feet, slightly higher than the stated 19.2 cubic feet. So I have overestimated at least one of these dimensions. But I think it's clear that there is not a lot of cargo volume here.

· dmovieman (not verified) · 5 years ago

I think the cargo space is what concerns me the most. In the Prius the space calculated is up to the seat backs. Isn't the space calculated differently depending on the slope of the hatch? If so, are they calculating to the ceiling in the c-max? I know that I have used more than the calculated space in the Prius cause I have loaded it above the seats for some softer articles such as pillows or something with most of the mass below seat back, but sticking above a little. I think I am really going to have to see it in person to know for sure.

· Boris (not verified) · 5 years ago

The Energi is great, but it won't save you as much money as you might think.
It will be about $4k more than the hybrid after rebates.
You will need to drive the car on electric alone for 100000 miles to recoup the money compared to the hybrid at 47Mpg (assuming $4/gallon , 15c/Kw and 3.3Miles/Kwh).
100000 miles on a 7.5 kwh battery pack will mean close to 4500 cycles.
My guess is that the battery pack will be very long in the tooth by then , if not completely dead already.
Good for the environment, not so good for the wallet.

· · 5 years ago


Well, if all we wanted to do was to save money, we'd all be driving Tata Nano.

· Anonymous5608 (not verified) · 5 years ago

What's going to be the onboard charger spec? 6.6 like the Focus?

· · 5 years ago

The charging times shown for the C-MAX Energi on the Ford web site are 7 hours at 120V and 2.5 hours at 240V. If 120V is 1.5kW, then 240V should be about 4.2kW. If they are only using 10A at 120V, then it's 1.2kW and then the 240V is about 3.3kW. In any case, there's no way it's 6.6kW because the battery is only 7.6kWh.

· Craig (not verified) · 5 years ago

Boris is wrong on the price. We had a Ford dealer quote a price for the Energi and Hybrid as an SEL and well equipped with the same features. The price difference after the Federal Tax Credit of $3800 is just $834 more for the Energi.

· · 5 years ago

@Mike I:

(From your own post, and Ford's website) - Ford advertises the charge time as 2.5 hours. The battery is about 7.5kWh. Assuming 100% of the battery is usable, 7.5kWh / 2.5h = 3 kW. There is no way they're using a 6.6kW charger. It is definitely 3.3kW (if not a little less).

· · 5 years ago

@Craig "The price difference after the Federal Tax Credit of $3800 is just $834 more for the Energi."

Your dealer got it wrong. Energi - after tax credits - is $4000 more than the hybrid. You can see my post below. Also checkout the build configurator at Ford yourself.

· · 5 years ago


I should take back my above post. Hybrid comes in 2 trims - SE & SEL. SE is $4,000 less than Energi. But that is a rather basic model - and Energi's trim level is almost exactly like Hybrid SEL, which is only $1,000 less than Energi.

But, Ford is already offering $1,000 cash back on hybrids - so the difference is more like $2,000.

· wowlfie (not verified) · 5 years ago

Just don't expect the Cmax Energi to get the same milegae as the hybrid's 47/47. Why? Because it weighs 252 more pounds so the highway mileage should be less despite a bigger battery for pushing it down the highway. But in the city should be higher--maybe a 50/45 rating due to the regenerative affects of having a much larger stored battery to charge when braking and hills.

· Alexandre Moleiro (not verified) · 5 years ago

The Prius Plug-In sold in Europe has the EV/HV switch wich allows you to save EV range for later as you need it.
It also has an EV City button wich delays the starting of the ICE until 90% of the accelerator pedal is pushed.

· Opp Chg (not verified) · 5 years ago

I test drove the regular CMAX and was not very impressed with it's EV ability. Even the slightest of hills or push on the gas kicked in the engine, even when the indicators said it wouldn't. And the Ford champion informed me the power train and operation of the ENERGI was exactly the same just a bigger traction battery.

To fool you into thinking you are getting a lot of EV miles, each drive ends with a summary of EV miles, or miles where the engine was off. My Gen II Prius operates pretty similar to this vehicle. Granted not new with lots of tech bells and whistles, and not and a Ford.

I don't see this vehicle as much competition for the Prius except among domestic-only buyers, and basically nil for potential Volt buyers. However there will still be some market for it, and I applaud Ford for "getting in the game"

· vvk (not verified) · 5 years ago

I am interested in C-Max Energi. What I am not interested in is a) saving money and b) environment. If saving money would be my priority, I would drive a Porsche 911/993 because they appreciate in value over time. If I was concerned about the environment, I would still be driving a Porsche 911/993 because it lasts forever and all car factories can close down and stop wasting natural resources and poisoning the atmosphere.

What I am interested, however, is the following:

a) silent operation
b) not visiting gas stations -- waste of time and spread of germs
c) sticking it to the arabs, the communists and the Canadians (oil imports)
d) sticking it to the government (no gas taxes)
e) no/minimal maintenance (since I always do it myself)

Also, I am pretty sure it would suit my driving style.

· · 5 years ago


"sticking it to the arabs, the communists ..."

So, driving electric somehow harms Cuba, N Korea & China ?

· · 5 years ago

Driving electric certainly means you aren't vying with China for limited oil supplies. I don't know if that hurts them but it certainly reduces the harm they can do to us.

· Gary (not verified) · 5 years ago

    "vvk (not verified) · 1 day ago

    If saving money would be my priority, I would drive a Porsche 911/993 because they appreciate in value over time."

Now this is hilarious - because 911's depreciate just like any other car. Are you planning on making it a time capsule car and never driving it? Or paying a premium over the already high base car price to get something "collectible"?

Reminds me of the joke "How do you make a small fortune in collector cars? Start with a large one!

· EMAX (not verified) · 5 years ago

I drove a C-Max Energi today and found even with a full tank of gasoline and a two hour charged plug-in battery pack the dash display showed(and I did drive it about 6 miles, about 3 miles Electric and 3 miles IC Engine first) a total available vehicle range of only 406 miles(12 miles Electric miles, and 394 IC engine miles). Was unclear why the range is only calculated to be 406 miles when the 13 plus gallons of gas in the tank plus the mostly charged batteries are rated by EPA to provide more like 590 miles range?

Plan to try to verify if this makes sense by getting input from Ford product engineering.

My fuel economy for the 6 mile drive, 3 miles surface streets and 3 highway was appox. 69 mpg, and IC engine was on much of the time on the highway.

· · 5 years ago

Even though I was getting only 20 miles in ev only during the winter, I now get up to 28 miles per charge in warmer wx.

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