Ford Plug-ins Force Choice Between Electric Drive and Storage Space

By · November 08, 2012

Ford C-Max Energi Cargo Space

The C-Max Energi plug-in loses almost 10 cubic feet of cargo space compared to the C-Max Hybrid. (Photo via darrelld3).

Ford's plug-in vehicle lineup currently consists of two vehicles: the limited-volume Ford Focus Electric, and the new Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. Both cars have their advantages, with the Focus boasting the highest range of any EV in its class and an active thermal management system—and the C-Max Energi as the both the most efficient and least expensive plug-in hybrid on the market.

Neither car is a dedicated electric model, meaning that for the time being, all Ford plug-ins are built around an existing platform, which necessitates packaging the battery packs in spaces other than beneath the cabin. So where cars like the Tesla Model S and Nissan LEAF are designed to keep their batteries discretely and unobtrusively hidden below their passengers, Ford plug-ins sacrifice storage space for electric range, creating an unattractive trade-off for already-more-expensive plug-in variants of existing models.

The C-Max Energi is built around the new C-Max Hybrid "multi-activity" platform. The hybrid offers 47 mpg in fuel economy and a significant storage and people-moving advantage over the standard Toyota Prius sedan. But where the C-Max Hybrid provides 24.5 cubic feet of storage behind the rear passenger seats, the Energi sacrifices more than 20 percent of that space to the battery pack, coming in at just 19.2 cubic feet of storage—less than the Prius sedan (the basis for the plug-in Prius) and significantly less than the Prius V. With the rear seats folded down, the Energi loses almost 10 cubic feet of cargo space versus the hybrid, which carries 52.6 cubic feet of storage.

In the Focus EV, the storage sacrifice is even more drastic. Indeed, one of the chief complaints among reviewers has been the car's paltry 14.5 cubic feet of rear storage, which The New York Times noted is "room for a few bags of groceries but nothing more." That's nearly a 40-percent drop-off from the non-electric Focus hatchback.

For buyers who have their hearts set on driving electric, these space trade-offs are just another consideration to weigh—in deciding among the limited plug-in options currently available on the market. But for customers who are on the fence about whether to take the plunge into plug-in ownership they could represent a deal-breaker. Ford's strategy of moving more and more of their lineup onto a few basic model-flexible platforms may make plenty of economic sense for the greater market, but by necessitating the placement of battery packs into areas needed for cargo, it could limit the market potential of Ford's plug-in models.


· MF (not verified) · 5 years ago

To be fair, the Focus EV is "build to order" not "limited volume". If you order one, they'll build you one!

· MF (not verified) · 5 years ago

Also, I'd like to point out that you can still fold the rear seats down, which makes quite a bit more room. You can still haul 2x4s if you need to, with the pass-through. But tall objects are a bit tough.

· · 5 years ago

Thank you very much for the picture!!! Wanted to see it for more than a year since C-Max Energi was announced.

· Spec (not verified) · 5 years ago

That cargo space is empty 98% of the time. If you really need much more cargo space occasionally, put something on the roof with a rack.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

'Put something on the roof with a rack'

I don't think Mitt Romney's dog would support this idea....

· · 5 years ago

Photo used without attribution, original is here:

Generally it is nice to at least credit the source.

Also, the headline is sensationalist. What does this have to do with Ford? The Volt doesn't have a ton of storage either, and the C-Max Energi at seats 5 full sized people (the back seat is very roomy). How many people does the Volt seat? Oh, that's right. Four. You state the Energi has "only" 19.2 cubic feet. Well the Volt has a whopping 10.6.

The fact of the matter is batteries take up space. It's a problem with any of the plug-in hybrids. You need room for batteries, a hybrid powertrain (ICE+electric), and a gas tank. It is not unique to Ford.

According to this article:

The C-Max Energi has more cargo space than the LEAF, the Volt, the Plug-in Prius, or the iMiEV.

So when did this become a problem unique to Ford?

· · 5 years ago

Instead of worrying about battery space in tiny EV's Chevy should come up with the MONTE CARLO EV:

The electric version of course would have enough room to fit 3 Roadster Batteries under that Boat Long hood, ( 169 kwh ) , and would give it a nice 500 mile range,, so who needs fast chargers anymore? Maybe we could transfer production from Japan to China so that we could actually afford the thing. hehe.

· · 5 years ago

I would agree with valkraider, except for the line "So where cars like the Tesla Model S and Nissan LEAF are designed to keep their batteries discretely and unobtrusively hidden below their passengers, Ford plug-ins sacrifice storage space for electric range, creating an unattractive trade-off for already-more-expensive plug-in variants of existing models."

The dedicated electrics have the batteries neatly tucked away instead of in your face (er, trunk) like Ford. Of course, they take up the same amount of space either way. The difference though is that when one walks into a Ford dealership and sees a C-Max Hybrid next to a C-Max Energi, they are forced to give up space in the Energi. Ford treats these cars as just another trim level of the same car (Focus, C-Max and soon the Fusion). When comparing these trim levels, one is directly confronted with the trade-off stated in the headline of this article.

· · 5 years ago

Yeah, and I couldn't have "stow & go" seating in my mini-van with all-wheel-drive. Because the seats took up the space where the drive-shaft would normally need to go.

And in my truck I had to choose between bed capacity and passenger room, because the four door has a smaller bed than the extended cab. The Silverado has all kinds of trade-offs depending on trim. Some trims or packages trade off fuel efficiency for 4 wheel drive or ground clearance.

In my Jeep Liberty I had to choose between the sunroof or the information console, because the sunroof took up the space where the information console normally went.

This happens with ANY vehicles. Again, this is a sensationalist framing of a "problem" which sort of is not even really a "problem".

"C-MAX hybrid has more storage room than C-MAX Energi." There, that is the headline.

Maybe if Ford forced us to choose between electric drive and a heater - that might be worthy of the controversy. "Ford forces customers to choose between electric drive and padded seats" would be a controversy. Different trims and packages having different specs is not even really all that newsworthy.

For click-bait it may work out OK. It surely doesn't help people be confident about plug-in hybrids though...

· · 5 years ago

Didn't mean to use the photo without attribution. I saw that it had been used by several other sites and assumed it was an official Ford media image. My apologies.

As for the criticism that the post is sensationalistic, I disagree. In fact, I rather think that we're making the same point: that trade-offs seem to be necessary in order to offer multiple technologies on the same platform. There are several distinct advantages to driving Ford plug-ins (which I believe I mentioned even before going into the storage issue,) and as you rightly point out, the Volt's T-shaped pack takes an entire seat out of the car in exchange for 38 miles of electric range. In general, making purchase decisions is about weighing trade-offs.

Of course, there is a debate to be had (one that was going on before the C-Max Energi even got the final green light from Ford,) about how much of an advantage it is to put electric drive into a dedicated platform, as Toyota did in the original Prius. People are going to fall into different camps on this issue, and I don't think that there's necessarily one answer.

I'm glad that you're happy with the C-Max Energi, it looks to be a great car with some very promising and unique advantages. I hope it's a hit with consumers.

· · 5 years ago

I didn't find the initial article / title sensationalist or anti-EV, it's nice to have some comments on how these vehicles will come to market and some comparisons.

I had thought of getting a C-Max Energi ... in part because of the greater cargo space. But, seeing that it is built much like the Focus EV, and if I wanted a standard Hybrid with lots of space I'd go for the Prius V, I got the iMiev instead. So far I'm quite happy with that decision ... even if I've had to keep an extra gas car for the longer trips.

I'm actually interested in why Ford (and GM) decided to do a parallel hybrid instead of a series hybrid like Fisker did? It seems to me (despite all of Fisker's problems unrelated to this decision) that it's a simpler setup: just have the electric motor drive the wheels and when the charge is low, have a generator kick in to provide charge/power to the batteries/motor. I would think that might make the drivetrain simpler and free up some space under the hood. But, I don't know the tradeoffs for such an engineering decision.

· · 5 years ago

It's probably just bothering me because of the negative connotation of the word "force". If there is *always* a decision to be made, then it is not being "forced" is it?


Also, the C-Max compares favorably to the Prius V for cargo space and fuel economy.

· Callajero (not verified) · 5 years ago

Chevy Volt is a series hybrid, not parallel. Even though either configuration has its pros and cons, I personally prefer the series design (like Volt and Fisker). I am getting 225 miles per gallon on my Volt. I don't think Prius or C-Max can come close to that!

· Michael T. (not verified) · 5 years ago

Per the EPA, the C-Max Energi gets more eMPG than the Volt and gets better mpg when running just on gasoline. The Energi only requires regular unleaded, the Volt requires Premium unleaded.

Energi also seats 5 instead of 4 and has more storage room.

· Michael T. (not verified) · 5 years ago

If 14.5 cubic feet of rear storage in the Focus Electric is considered "paltry" per Zach, what is the adjective for 10.6 cubic feet of rear storage in the Volt?

Extra Paltry? Teenie-weenie-Paltry? Paltry minus 37% ?

The problem with Zach's article is he takes a premise and then tries to find info to support his premise, ignoring info that weakens his premise.

A better approach would have been to include comparative information that would paint a more complete and honest picture.

Doing anything less, weakens his credibility and does a disservice to consumers.

· Volume Van (not verified) · 5 years ago

Yes the battery takes up some space, but still 19.2 cubic foot is much bigger than all mid-size sedans which offer between 16-17 cu. ft. space.

That's the advantage of wagons. Ford has done a great job in selecting the right model.
For any extra space, we can always fold the rear seat if extra passengers are not there.

· Callajero (not verified) · 5 years ago

@ Michael T.
You are absolutely right as far as the equivalent MPG rating is concerned. However, if your driving is 90% at or below Volt's 35-40 miles per day, you hardly use any gasoline. That's where my 225 mpg comes from. The same is not true for parallel hybrid systems. In either case I support all types of PEVs over ICE vehicles, since it minimizes US oil use, which to me is the number one reason to buy a PEV.

· Callajero (not verified) · 5 years ago

@Volume Van.
The 19.2 cubic feet cargo space number for C-Max and 14.5 for Focus is true only when the back seats are folded down. I am not sure what Volt's equivalent would be with folded rear seats, but it is definitely much more that 10.6 feet!

· Michael T (not verified) · 5 years ago

Callajero (not verified) · 1 hour ago
@Volume Van.
The 19.2 cubic feet cargo space number for C-Max and 14.5 for Focus is true only when the back seats are folded down. I am not sure what Volt's equivalent would be with folded rear seats, but it is definitely much more that 10.6 feet!


That's not correct. Those figures are with the back seat up, and able to still seat 5 people.

C-Max Energi:

Cargo Volume behind 2nd row seats (cu. ft.) 19.2
Cargo Volume behind 1st row seats (with 2nd row seats folded) (cu. ft.) 42.8

Focus EV:

Cargo Volume behind 2nd row (cu. ft.) - 14.5
Cargo Volume behind 1st row (with 2nd row seats folded) (cu. ft.) - 33.9
Cargo Volume hidden capacity (cu. ft.) - 1.5

· CharlesF (not verified) · 5 years ago

Sorry Callajero, but Volume Van is correct. According to Ford's web site the C-Max Energi has 19.2 cubic feet behind the second row seats and 42.8 behind the first row seats. The Focus EV is 14.5 and 33.9. The Volt is 10.6 and 18. Sorry I do not remember where I found the 18 for the volt. I checked an old post of mine to get that volume because Chevy does not post it where I can find it. The Leaf is 14.5 and 24. I think the Leaf is shaped better than the Focus EV, but it is not larger in cargo volume.

BTW now has the C-Max Energi listed.

· · 5 years ago

It isn't the battery that takes up the extra space on PHEVs, it's the ICE and all of the junk that it requires to make it work. We see this when we compare a ground-up EV design like the iMiev and the Tesla Model S with any ICE vehicle. The EV drivetrain takes up almost no space. The ICE takes up a lot of space (centerline humps, engine-filled hood, etc). When one has to add batteries after the ICE has taken up all the space, that's where the challenge lies. The Volt put some of the battery in the trunk and the rest in the center rear seat. The C-Max appears to have just put it in the trunk.
Zach is right that it is definitely going to be a compromise for Ford or anyone who tries to make a Plug-In Hybrid.

The C-Max Energi and hybrid are parallel designs exactly like the Volt, Prius, etc. It really doesn't matter too much to me as long as the car can drive on pure electricity at freeway speeds. The parallel design does keep the VP of Transmissions in the auto company happy, it makes the car a bit more expensive, and it restricts where they can put powertrain components.
The Fisker and Via Trucks are both serial hybrid designs where the ICE drives a generator and the generator charges the battery and drives the electric motor.

· Callajero (not verified) · 5 years ago

I stand corrected on the C-Max cargo space, since it is basically a minivan. However, I have personally seen the cargo space in Focus Electric, and the Volt appears to have much more room.
As far as parallel vs. series design, I am sure that Chevy Volt has series configuration, which basically means that the electric motor drives the car, and the gas engine mainly acts as a generator, and does not drive the car. While Prius can be "driven" by both gas and electric motors. If you drive a fully charged plug-in Prius and press the gas pedal just hard enough the gas engine kicks in and helps the electric engine. Not sure about C-Max since I have not driven it, but I understand it also has a parallel design.

· David Martin (not verified) · 5 years ago

It is not non-custom built cars as such which have awkward intrusions into passenger and cargo space, but the choice of donor bodies and how it is engineered that are critical.
Here is the Honda Fit EV:

'As with Tesla's Model S, the Fit EV's battery resides in a slab beneath the floor. But instead of impinging on interior room, the entire chassis has been elevated above it by 1.6 inches (reminiscent of the 1997 EV Plus, if you recall). That's right: The Fit EV is noticeably taller. To keep its underwear from showing, there are added rocker panels plus plastic eyebrows above the wheel wells. It looks a lot better than it sounds.'

Pictures there of the cargo room, which is just fine.

Ford is also talking nonsense with the claim that:
'the Focus boasting the highest range of any EV in its class '
as the Fit EV does better. How they have managed to put it in a different class is a mystery known only to Ford publicity department.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

The 'my car is better than your car" stuff is getting a bit long in the tooth guys. Stop taking every article as an attack on your favorite brand .

· Keith Ruddell (not verified) · 5 years ago

@David Martin,
The Honda Fit is a subcompact and the Ford Focus is a compact. Two different classes, no mystery.

@Dan and @Callajero,
The Volt can operate in serial or parallel hybrid mode depending on conditions. The electric clutches allow this option.

· · 5 years ago

@Callajero: "However, if your driving is 90% at or below Volt's 35-40 miles per day, you hardly use any gasoline. That's where my 225 mpg comes from. The same is not true for parallel hybrid systems."

The difference has nothing to do with the parallel / series hybrid architecture and everything to do with the all-electric range. The C-Max's range is half of the Volt's (20 miles). If 90% of your driving is below that 20 miles, you can still hardly use any gasoline. The C-Max Energi has an "EV Now" button which will force the car to operate like the Volt - specifically, it will burn no gasoline (zero, ziltch) until the battery capacity is used up. This is very different from the Prius, which as you said, will burn gas if you push the accelerator hard enough even with a fully charged battery.

· · 5 years ago

@Callajero and Keith Ruddell,
Parallel -vs- Serial Hybrid topology isn't a mode but rather an architecture. The Parallel topology has a mechanical linkage between the driveshaft and both the electric and the ICE motors while the Serial only has the electric motor connected to the wheels.
Both can operate in all-electric mode as Brian Schwerdt points out. The Serial cannot operate in all ICE mode, however.
The biggest major difference is that the Parallel design forces a lot of difficult design tradeoffs because of the mechanical linkage between the ICE and the wheels. A Parallel design offers a lot more flexibility since wires can bend and aren't very big, relative to mechanical shafts.
Many of the "Choices" that Zach describes in this article would be a lot easier with a serial design. If starting out with an ICE design, however, it isn't that much more difficult to go with a parallel design and it keeps harmony in the ICE car company boardroom a lot longer by appeasing the transmission division.
Parallel designs can also have wimpier electric motors as we see in most hybrids. This kept the NiMH battery technology owners (Chevron Texaco) happy as well as the ICE experts fearing obsolescence.
If we want affordable EVs, the manufacturers are going to have to start focusing on designing to be cheap, not to keep all of their obsolete buggywhip makers employed.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

The problem with the Ford C-Max energi is that the engine takes up the entire front space when it should only use a tiny shoebox size leftover and leave the rest for the battery. They simply, lazily took a standard engine with a standard gearbox plus clutch and put it in there instead of making a small micro range extender and save up space for a battery in a front position. In such a case the back space would have been unaffected.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

Instead of a behemoth 2 liter engine they should use a compact 600 cc engine like BMW plans on doing on its i3 and i4 models.

· Jesse Gurr (not verified) · 5 years ago

Maybe they could use their 1.0L ecoboost engine in the next gen hybrid. It should use less gas. Then maybe design some performance hybrid model with the 2.0L ecoboost. They already have a 2.0L engine, just swap them out. That would be cool, normal driving probably in the low 40s high 30s and power when you want. Still good economy numbers. :D

· · 5 years ago

It's not a "which car is better" thing. They are all good, just different. But lets not spread mis-information.

1. The Volt *is* _both_ a serial and a parallel hybrid:

2. Ford did not "lazily" take a "standard engine with a standard gearbox plus clutch". Ford's hybrid system (for all their hybrids) and transmission are designed completely as a hybrid system, and are not "standard" in almost any sense. They do of course use maybe less radical engineering than the Volt platform - but they are completely designed for hybrid use. The engine is an Atkinson cycle engine with a different enough design that it probably would never work in a "regular" application - it is dependent on the electric motors. The transmission is a CVT designed specifically to mate the electric and Atkinson motors together.

3. Ford's intent was to deliver a better driving experience than the Prius while still attaining great fuel economy. The Prius is great but some people don't like the way it drives. Ford is trying to make their hybrids drive more sprightly and responsive. That is their goal. This is *entirely* subjective, and there is no way anyone will ever be able to say which one is better or worse in a real defined data sort of way. People will either gravitate towards one or the other.

4. The Volt is exciting technology. My personal experience, driving the Volt, is that it is a poor presentation. I wish they had done a better job with the fit & finish & interior presentation (I think the exterior styling is great). My personal opinion is that the Volt just didn't feel like a $40k car. Again - this is completely subjective. My biggest problem with the Volt was the 4 person seating capacity. After that I was just not impressed with the quality of the vehicle. After that I found the ICE to be a little bit noisy and the integration between the electric and ICE to not be as smooth and seamless as I had expected. That was my opinion, and based on those I stopped considering a Volt. I *WISH* that Chevy would put the Volt technology into a S-10 pickup type platform. That would be BRILLIANT.

5. Why I chose the Energi: Invoice to Invoice a similarly equipped Volt and Energi, taking into account the federal tax programs, I am paying over $3000 less for an Energi. The Energi seats 5 and has more cargo volume than the Volt. My commute is less than 20 miles a day, and the Energi has better fuel economy when running on gasoline. I also (subjectively) feel the Energi had better build quality than the Volt. It didn't help the Volt that all of our local Chevy dealers are trying to tack on a $3000 "Adjusted Market Value" to the Volt MSRP and they are insisting they won't bargain - while the Ford dealership gave me invoice price over a 5 minute phone call. I am sure I could find a Volt for invoice - but it wouldn't be nearly as easy as my Energi purchase - just based on my interaction I had with the electric certified Chevy dealers around here.

In the end - any plug-in hybrid or EV is a good choice, and something we should ALL support. I will happily sit down and enjoy a good meal with *any* electric car enthusiast. :)

· Callajero (not verified) · 5 years ago

Below Youtube video explains how the drive train on Chevy Volt works. It is totally different from PIP and C-max CVT transmissions.
@Valraider "In the end - any plug-in hybrid or EV is a good choice, and something we should ALL support". I agree with you 100%. Everyone has different needs and interests. As long as they buy any type of PEV, they have all our support.

· · 5 years ago

I always love armchair-engineering on the internet. We all love to second-guess decisions made by manufacturers. It is hard to bring a platform to market AND make money doing so. These are some considerations:

It has to work in 120 degrees. It has to work in -20 degrees. It has to work in rain. It has to work in snow. It has to work in humidity. It has to work in arid climates. It has to go uphill. It has to go downhill. It has to work at 13,000 feet. It has to work in the dark. It has to work in dust. It has to work on bumpy roads. It has to work in wind. It has to work with bugs or rodents. It has to work when carrying a full load. It has to work with poor quality fuel. It has to work with kids. It has to work with elderly. It has to work on pavement, concrete or dirt. It has to work with child safety seats. It has to work in *any* combination of the above.

It has to meet safety standards. It has to be comfortable. It has to look well enough to sell. It has to meet emissions requirements. It has to be repairable. It has to be buildable. It has to be servicable. It has to last long enough to prevent warranty claims. It has to last long enough to avoid bad press. It has to be cost-effective. It has to be marketable. It has to have compatible accessories. It has to work with our new smart phone. It has to have fancy gadgets and gizmos. It has to be insurable. It has to comply with federal, state, and local laws. It has to resist corrosion. It has to have a cradle-grave plan.

I have seen some awesome concept products made by local shops for bicycles - which fail under several of the conditions mentioned above. We are talking about simple concepts with few parts which are used in a limited way - and yet they will fail if it is too cold, or if they get wet, or whatever... Auto companies don't have that luxury. They have to be able to sell a car to a person in hot humid Florida that they can drive to visit Pikes Peak, and then up to Whistler BC to go skiing, then back down to visit family in Phoenix, and it can't die when they get stuck at idle for hours in road construction. All of that has to happen while being comfortable, safe, and meeting expectations. And since the things cost tens of thousands of dollars, people expect them to work reliably for years and years and people get angry if it takes a dealership longer than a single day to troubleshoot and repair problems...

Just think of a car door. It opens and closes hundreds of thousands of times in it's expected life-cycle. And yet it is expected to do so problem free, and not for a lot of cost. Expand that to *every part of a vehicle* now.

Then, we - on this forum - because we are geeks, like to throw in complexity. "I want all that AND I want to be able to plug it in *or* drive it on gas - but I don't want to pay extra for it..."

Sure, we could build inexpensive kit cars that do great under "normal" or "ideal" circumstances. And it seems like a good idea. Until your family is stranded somewhere if the weather is unexpected. Or until someone is killed by a relatively moderate vehicle collision. Or until a part fails unexpectedly and there is no one to fix it and no way to replace it...

We expect a lot from our cars.

· · 5 years ago

"MF (not verified) · 1 day ago

To be fair, the Focus EV is "build to order" not "limited volume". If you order one, they'll build you one!"

If this is the case, then why are there 5 available to the public at large at Bill Pierre Ford in Seattle?

"ex-EV1 driver · 16 hours ago

It isn't the battery that takes up the extra space on PHEVs, it's the ICE and all of the junk that it requires to make it work. We see this when we compare a ground-up EV design like the iMiev and the Tesla Model S with any ICE vehicle."

The iMiev was originally an ICE vehicle with a 659cc engine.

· Jesse Gurr (not verified) · 5 years ago

After you posted the youtube video, are you saying you still think the Volt is a serial hybrid only? Because, according to the video, it can be both.

Too bad I can't upvote you. +1 Agree with everything you said. It would be extremely hard to design and build something that people want. If they want to make money on it they have to sell it to the largest group they can. So they design to that group some features. Unfortunately you can't please 100% of people all the time. There will always be someone that has to find fault in everything.

· Callajero (not verified) · 5 years ago

@Jesse Gurr
I consider the Volt as a serial hybrid because it 99% of the time it works as a serial hybrid. Under rare conditions it can also help as parallel. That's totally different than PIP, and possibly C-Max.

· · 5 years ago

I'm sorry you and so many others newbies to the EV world can't seem to comprehend the difference between serial and parallel. This means you don't know what to demand or where you should intelligently put your money if you want to invest in the real future and not another GM fairy tale. The GM propaganda video you link to distinctly shows a parallel hybrid design albeit about as complicated as anyone could possibly imagine. It pretty much captures the worst qualities of both serial and parallel design. Sure, they can break up their power combiner allowing one to argue that it is like a serial topology but who cares? They've lost all the simplicity of the serial design.
It is also sad that GM has gone to the extra drivetrain expenses (unnecessary extra electric motor, transmission, clutches, brakes, gears), loss of middle seat, and other undesireable tradeoffs for the Volt for something that you say only gets used 1% of the time.
It is also sad that valkraider doesn't like having spent $40K on his Volt when a lot of that price undoubtedly goes to the costs associated with GM's insistence with preserving the existence of the transmission instead of things he believes $40K warrants.
I hope that more rational design comes to mainstream EVs, otherwise, they will remain overpriced and under-performers and, as such, be more slowly adopted by the general public --- or else Tesla will just take over the car industry.

· callajero (not verified) · 5 years ago

@ex EV1 driver
OK. Fair enough. I would appreciate it if you could clearly define the difference between serial and parallel. Also if you know please explain the difference between PIP and Volt drive design, and why there is a huge difference in electric motor size between Volt and C-Max/PIP. Our understandings could be totally different. I am sure you have much more experience than I do with PEVs. Thank you for your time.

· · 5 years ago

I'm sorry I brought up the serial vs. parallel thing. When I learned that the Volt was parallel (simply meaning the wheels can be turned by either the electric motor or the gasoline engine), I wondered why they bothered with that complexity. But I think it's a combination of a status quo attitude and some usability/engineering limitation: perhaps the motor would have to be bigger and the batteries more reliable to go that way and GM didn't want to take that risk. If the battery or electric motor fails, the car could keep going with little disruption for the driver. In this sense I agree with valkraider, it just made the most sense to build the car this way. (In the Fisker, you're not going anywhere without an electric motor ... and if the batteries totally die, I'm not sure you're much better off, but I'm not sure.)

· · 5 years ago

"It is also sad that valkraider doesn't like having spent $40K on his Volt when a lot of that price undoubtedly goes to the costs associated with GM's insistence with preserving the existence of the transmission instead of things he believes $40K warrants."

I didn't buy a volt. I bought a C-Max Energi.

But you make a valid point... Has anyone seen Chevy's justification for going with all that complexity?

The Energi has a small 4cyl engine mated to electric drive through a CVT. It didn't cost a billion dollars to design, gets better fuel economy in gasoline mode, and would go just as far as the Volt on electricity if it had the same size battery pack... Ford can sell them $10k less than Volt. They have more storage and seating than Volt. In my opinion it drove nicer than Volt.

I wonder why GM went so complex...

For the record, I am not a Ford guy. I had a 1989 Ford that was such garbage I never looked at Ford again until now. I have been mostly a GM guy, and a Volkswagen guy. I really wanted the Volt to be awesome... I also think the tech could be great in other applications.

Why don't we make cars like freight trains?

· · 5 years ago

I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic but, assuming you aren't here's an explanation of Serial and Parallel hybrid topologies:

Serial: The drivetrain is in series, ie a gas tank feeds the ICE who's output shaft drives a generator which charges the battery and/or drives the electric motor who's output shaft is connected to the wheels.

Parallel: The gas tank feeds the ICE who's output shaft goes into a mechanical power splitter. The battery feeds an electric motor who's output shaft is also connected to a mechanical power splitter. The power splitter has 3 shafts, one for the ICE, one for the electric motor, and one for the wheels.

There are advantages and disadvantages with each and they can differ depending on the details of their designs. One advantage with the parallel form is that the motor can act as a generator as well for regenerative braking. It does, of course require some sort of transmission to handle the fact that the ICE can't operate at any RPM. There are indications that the parallel is generally more efficient while cruising using the ICE than a serial. The serial form is very simple but requires both a motor and a generator. It has a potential advantage in that the ICE only has to operate at its most efficient RPM and torque. One can also theoretically replace the ICE+generator with any source of electricity such as a fuel cell or more batteries.

Both topologies can enable driving with 100% electric or 100% ICE if designed appropriately.

The serial topology must have an electric motor that is strong enough for all driving. One can put a wimpy electric motor on the parallel design if, perhaps one isn't particularly enamored with this new electric technology. Likewise, one can put a wimpy ICE in either design if one isn't particularly enamored with burning gasoline :-)

Many (including GM) confuse serial with running on pure electric without the ICE on at all, however, either topology can operate that way.

The Volt has a strange configuration of the massive collection of clutches, brakes, and shafts in its power splitter, where it can connect one of its electric motors to the ICE and mechanically disconnect these from the other electric motor which is still connected to the driveshaft so it actually is operating, technically in the serial mode.

Of course there are probably a thousand other possible configurations of that erector set of a power train. Sure, when GM's misguided management challenges their brilliant engineering teams, they are able to make the system work, keeping all divisions of GM in the game but producing a car that possibly can't ever be made cheaply.

I don't mind the Volt remaining in the luxury car price range. Its good if folks who can afford a $40K car don't pollute or require gasoline. However, our society really doesn't need another expensive luxury car, we need a path to affordable cars that don't require gasoline. Hopefully, some future GM car will put them on that course but the Volt isn't on that track.

I hope that Ford has gotten onboard with the C-Max but it's tiny battery isn't a good start.

There's still Tesla at least.

· · 5 years ago

You're right. I forgot that the iMiev started as an ICE with a very small motor. I guess it works as such an efficient EV that I forgot that history.

· Jesse Gurr (not verified) · 5 years ago

Here is a diagram of the transmission that Ford uses for its hybrids.

Here is a video for toyota's system.

Just in case anyone cares. :P

· Callajero (not verified) · 5 years ago

@ex-EV-1 driver and Jesse Gurr. Thank you for the detailed information. It is very helpful. Especially the fact that Chevy Volt does operate in series mode, in addition to parallel.
Let me know if I am wrong. If we assume Chevy Volt runs in series mode over 90% of the time and less than 10% of the time on parallel mode wouldn't it be considered mainly a series hybrid? Thanks!

· Jesse Gurr (not verified) · 5 years ago

I was under the understanding that you can't call it a series hybrid because it is not just a series hybrid. It has multiple modes of operation.

Wouldn't that be like saying if the Volt's engine never turns on we can call it an EV?

We can say it operates like an EV or operates like a series hybrid, but it isn't strictly any singular mode of operation because it can do all of them.

· · 5 years ago

I figure if we can call the Volt a series hybrid, we can also call it a log. After all, a log just sits there and, if you operate the Volt in the mode where it is turned off, it just sits there, then it is in log mode. Therefore, it can be called a log.
It can also be called a liquid because if you melt it down, it can be poured, just like a liquid can.
Otherwise, its a parallel hybrid. Period.

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 5 years ago

"Per the EPA, the C-Max Energi gets more eMPG than the Volt and gets better mpg when running just on gasoline."

Let us hope that C-Max actually gets what it says, so far most C-Max owners are getting high 30s (38mpg) instead of the 47MPG.

NOW, let me get to the point on ex-EV1 driver,

@ ex-EV1 driver,

I am pretty sure your understanding of the "series-parallel" issue are as biased as your attitude toward GM's EV-1 program.

Volt is complex. Seems more so than your simple understanding. Here is why. Series hybrid is what Volt operates in during extended mode. ICE powers generator which powers electric motor. That is "Series" by definition. Now, in extended mode, at speed above 70mph, the ICE also couple the power mechanically into the plantary gear set to "supplement" the power which is driving by the electric motor.

In the Volt, the electric motor is the main power in all mode regardless of series/parallel and speed. Its drive shaft is directly connected to the wheel. Now, the ICE and generator can both be coupled into the drive shaft power through each the planet gear or the sun gears through 2 seperate clutches.

You asked why are those complexities, b/c efficiency. As any elementary electrical engineer would know that electric motor will drop in efficiency as the RPM gets to be extremely high. That is why most EV's top speed are limited. Tesla is an exception, but it lives with its loss in top speed efficiency. Volt power train first powers up the generator at speed above 60mph to lower the main drive traction motor speed so its main motor can operate at a lower RPM piont without any gear changes. During its ICE operate at speed above 70mph in "Extended mode only", it cuts power into the main drive shaft to increase efficiency. B/c series hybrid has no main advantage over parallel configuration during hwy high speed cruising.

So, added complexity for extra efficiency. Its complexity is also why you can make from LA to SF in one day. You can't do that in any other EV (beside the recent Tesla super charger network).

Now, your attitude of EV smug is another problem that I have. Your attitude is NOT helping the spread of EV. You should encourage any types of electricification instead of bashing what you don't like...

Feel free to enjoy your EV and I will enjoy my Volt.

· · 5 years ago

@Modern Marvel Fan,
I'm sorry if I come down on the Volt but it was sadly sabotaged to be much more expensive than it would have to be with that rube-goldberg transmission you so well describe. Clearly you deluded Volt fan-boys have consumed too much of the GM kool-aid but I do admit that parallel -vs- serial isn't really a huge deal -- I just won't let it rest with your misunderstanding based on GM's propaganda.
Let me add that the reason most EV's top speed is limited is because the manufacturers put motors in them that are too wimpy. The Leaf (which I own) is proof of that if you get above 60 mph. EVs need to have an electric motor who's optimum efficiency comes at the cruising speed. In the US, this should probably be around 70 - 75 mph. This means you figure out how much power is required to go 70 - 75 mph and adjust motor size and gears so that is the optimal efficiency point for the motor.
GM, when faced with that efficiency problem you point out solved it with an ICE and transmission. They proved the old adage that to a little boy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. They could have up-sized the ICE and had an even better result that would be a lot cheaper.
Going with a serial topology, they would also have had a lot more flexibility in the design and could possibly have even found a way to retain the middle seat.
They chose not to and still came up with a great performing vehicle. Someone else will make different decisions and come up with a similar great performing vehicle that costs them less money. Guess who is going to win that one?
BTW, I've driven a Tesla Roadster from LA to SF in one day many times without any Superchargers. I even did it a few times before there were any charging stations using RV parks. 16 kW charging stations and 90 kW charging stations just make it that much easier and quicker. With the Supercharger, it will take about the same amount of time as with an ICE today. With 16 kW charging stations, it takes about 5.5 hours longer.
I don't doubt that you love your Volt. Everyone I know with one does. However, I fear it is too financially wasteful to be sustainable and it could get clobbered when someone else intelligent (this eliminates Fisker) designs a PHEV with good intentions. I figure that Ford's short range C-Max Energi won't put too much of a dent in the Volt because of having a lot less range but it is worthy competition.
I also pointed out in a different thread and I'll repeat it again here that I'm sure GM will kill the Volt and all electrification efforts again if they feel there is the slightest chance they can get away with it again. Luckily, they sold it to you and many others so they won't be able to actually destroy them this time around.
As this article correctly points-out, however, PHEV's are always going to be faced with a challenging tradeoff between storage space, range, and performance aspects.
I would definitely like an ICE range extender in my Leaf. I would have bought the Volt if I could have made it to work without gasoline. If it had 5 - 10 more miles of EV range I'd own one despite the extra cost. I'd still call it what it is though - a serial PHEV but that doesn't make me anti-PHEV.

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 5 years ago

@ex-EV1 driver,

"it was sadly sabotaged to be much more expensive than it would have to be"

Really? Name me another Plugin hybrid that is cheaper with comparable size battery. The main cost of the Volt is the battery. Its transmission isn't expensive. Its engine isn't expensive. Most of the parts of the car are shared with its ICE platform except for the electric components. That is why Volt can keep the cost down. Ford is doing the same with the Energi plugins and Toyota is taking a same approach with even more lame attempt at it. As far as electrication goes, GM at least does its homework in its battery regulation. It liquid cools/heats its battery and warranty it for 150k miles/10 year in CA. Leaf doesn't even warranty the capacity loss. So far, with plenty data, Nissan has shown that its design was FAR from ready as far as its battery protection goes.

As far as your point on motor size at cruising speed, that is incomplete. The major part of that reason is battery. At 70-75mph, the energy takes to cruise at that speed is significant more. The motor will have to be much larger and its battery peak current output would have to be even larger. That require significant upgrade in the controller and battery. Both will only add even more cost. So far, the ONLY EVs that are more powerful than the Volt all cost way more than the Volt. B/c those higher powered electronic controllers and upgraded battery will COST MORE. And they are NOT linear like your typical semiconductors. At much higher voltage and current, those controllers with larger IGBTs and power MOSFET will cost 2x to 4x more than the lower power rated ones. Those cost increase are far more than the ICE power train cost. Major auto makers can produce engines at almost the cost of $2-$3 per horsepower. That is far lower than an upgrade power controller.

Also, serial configuration at hwy cruising doesn't make sense in efficiency in constant high speed cruising, you can't possibly tell me that ICE-Generator-Motor-Wheel configuration is more efficiency than ICE-Gearset-Wheel configuration at constant speed load such as high speed cruising.

As far as your LA-SF trip goes, sure if you consider it as "all day" event. But most people only takes about 6-7 hours to conmplete that trip, you would need about 10-12 hours minimum to do that wtthout super charger. Most RV parks will only provide you with a NEMA-14-50 plug which is only 50A at best if not lower.

Now let us get back at the cost of the Volt. Volt is expensive again b/c its larger battery size and larger motor/controllers. Is it perfect? No. I wish it would have 60 miles EV range instead of 38. But it is a very realistic approach to the issue. Many automakers are coming out with PHEVs due to the success of Volt. But NONE of them is as committed as GM with its PHEVs programs (except maybe Ford and Honda's potential Accord Plugin). B/c all of them are just a "converted" version of their "hybrid" offering. Volt is NOT based on any hybrids in GM. It is designed from ground up to be an EV first, hybrid second. That is why it is the ONLY PHEV with electric motor as the MAIN power source. NO other PHEV have taken this approach. It is as close to EV as it gets for anything that has an ICE.

Instead of holding grudges against GM's EV-1 program, maybe you should hold it againt Toyota for making Prius so good that there are even less economic incentive for people to even go to EV (not to mention the fact those Prii are just clogging up the fast lanes with slow drivers).

EV-1 progam was a "test pilot" program for GM. It never intended to sell them. Nobody owned one b/c it was lease only. It is NO different than Honda's Clarity or BMW's mini-E or Active E. To be honest, EV-1 wasn't all that. Espeically with its Lead acid battery and later on Ni-MH battery, a 2 seater commuter car that looked pretty ugly. It is no different than what Honda did with the original Insight and soon taken over by the Prius.

Now, let us get back to your point of GM NOT backing up the EV program. Well, it is all about money. Why shouldn't it be anything else? It is a business. A business to make money. If GM doesn't, it would need bailout again and just gives more Fox news people more reason to hate it. The EV-1 program came out when the gas was cheap and GM couldn't make enough SUVs. Suddenly over night, cosumer changed its mind and wanted MPG friendly cars. EV-1 wasn't making money for GM (wouldn't have been even if it was sold for years). Even with today's volume in Volt, GM has recovered the initial R&D cost, neither has Nissan or Tesla. At the end of the day, companies have to stay in business to survive.

If Gas is going to be $1.50 tomorrow and stay there for the next 3 years, then you shouldn't blame GM for abandoning Volt after 3 more years. It will only stay with it if battery cost comes down and plenty buyers want it. If gas is that cheap, I wouldn't be surprised that Nissan will cancel EV program and Telsa goes belly up in 3 years...

Remember, most buyers buy a product for economic reason just b/c they are "fan" of any particular technology...

· · 5 years ago

@Modern Marvel ... Thank you for defense of the Volt. Though my EV purist had a hard time accepting the benefits of the Volt, the practical side of me finds it acceptable, even if it's not elegantly simple. I worry about all those moving parts and redundancy 5-10 years down the road when things start to wear out. But, for a lot of people (like a guy at my work), the Volt is the perfect vehicle. There is no range anxiety and they can do most of their driving in EV mode. In fact Volt owners now really strive to see how far they can go on electric charge - with no risk of being stranded ... so that's positive.

I am now thinking that the serial vs. parallel hybrid debate borders on a pointless symantic debate ... even if I have been smug in the past about insisting the Volt is a parallel hybrid. I should probably just let some Volt drivers (and even people at GM) believe that the Volt ICE never drives the wheels and move on. Does it really matter that much anyway? We could just give a new name to Volt drive train: a "tribrid" (parallel, series, and ex-EV1's new designation the "log" - that had me LMHO!).

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

The Chevy Volt is an extended range EV, or EREV for short. That's what I know from driving one - it operates as a pure EV most of my driving time, and those occasions where the ICE kicks in to maintain the battery charge, it still drives electrically. It is an EREV. The term 'hybrid' has been and continues to be used by cars that are mainly powered by gasoline engines, with electric capability in certain situations. To insist the Volt is a 'hybrid' merely confuses what it is - an EV with the little gas-powered generator normally hitched up in back built in to the car.

The term 'EREV' dispels confusion as to the Volt being different from standard Priuses and other hybrids as well as the PIP which would truly represent what a 'plug-in hybrid' indeed is - a car still depending on a gas engine to directly power itself, but with an enhanced capability of electric mode power.

So people - just what is wrong with calling the Volt an EREV?

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 5 years ago

B/c all the EV Purist hate GM so much for its EV-1 program that it refuses to give any credits to the Volt as far as EREV goes. They think it is a "marketing" term when in fact it is different than any other hybrid or Plugin hybrids out there.

It is designed to be EV first and all other stuff are there just to help the main traction motor. Sure, there is a small operating window in the extended mode where the ICE couples power into the drive shaft. But it is still electric motor driven.

As far as the Purist go with their so called EV defnition, it is pointless. We all want "EV" to be mainstream, we all want EVs to succeed. The purist want abrupt changes, I disagree. I think Volt's approach is a great way for most average consumer to familiarize with EVs before fully embracing it without fear or before the infrastructure and technology is ready. Volt is just as "EV" as Honda's FCX Clarity. The typical "EV" are nothing more than a "chemical" or "battery" EV. Feel free to call it "coal" EV or "solar" or "hydro" EV depending on the source of the your energy. At the end, it is all about the "EV" experience of smooth and quiet operation and being able to "offset" your energy with whatever source you like. Volt gives you that flexibility and capability.

I only wish that GM takes the Volt technology further with more EV range and expand it into other class of vehicles... We will see how GM handles it with the upcoming 2014/2015 model year redesign of the Chevy Volt.

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 5 years ago

"After all, a log just sits there and, if you operate the Volt in the mode where it is turned off, it just sits there, then it is in log mode."

Maybe we should Leaf a "hybrid" too then. Once it is out of charge and getting towed on the back of a diesel flatbed truck, it is using diesel as well...

Silly logic.

· Callajero (not verified) · 5 years ago

@ Moder Mavel
Thank you! That's what I thought too, but didn't want to get into back and forth argument with the Ex EV-1 driver. He appears to hold a strong grudge against GM (maybe rightfully so). We, on this forum, want ALL PEVs to succeed. They all have the pros and cons. In my case, I preferred the Volt for now. Who know what is going to happen in the future.

· · 5 years ago

>>That cargo space is empty 98% of the time. If you really need much more cargo space occasionally, put something on the roof with a rack.<<

My Prius already holds 2x what the Ford will hold, and I already use a roof rack AND a trailer. If the cargo space is empty 98% of the time for you, then I suggest you don't need a car but for 2% of your trips! If I just need to move my body, I use a vehicle that weighs WAY less than I do!

I'm thrilled that these vehicles are coming online. But if they can't haul my family and gear, I have no use for them. I don't use a car to haul myself around. I use it only when I need to haul all my cr*p around! (uh... not that my family is cr*p.... oops)

· · 5 years ago

Storage space: F. Focus Electric has a small trunk, true ... but we rarely need much. No need for suitcases on a 30 mile radius trip.
Groceries usually sit on floor or seats; OK with us.
Major hauls: use the gasoline car, with big trunk.
Minor trips: use hiking shoes or bicycle, unless need to carry more than I want to bike with, or if weather is bad -- then our FFE is great!

· · 5 years ago

@Jim T,

I assume you don't have kids...mine are always with me except for my commute, which is <5 miles RT. A week's groceries for our family of 4 wouldn't fit in the FFE. I go to BJ's about once a month. My Leaf's trunk is always very full. If I go to the mall, I almost always have a stroller. If I go out on the boat for an evening, I have a cooler, the battery for my outboard, and a dufflebag or two. Almost all of these are impossible with the Focus' non-existent trunk. And that's a good portion of the miles I can actually cover in my Leaf.

· · 5 years ago

@Brian Schwerdt,
Your points make sense. No children here now. If Honda Fit electric had been available to buy, might have picked that instead -- partly for storage space.

Cold: how much difference does winter temp. make to mileage for a Leaf?
I tend to use its seat warmers (or warm the cabin while plugged in) to avoid hit to estimated range of Focus: loose maybe 7 miles if turn on heater. (And the car asks me to plug it in if outside air gets much below 40, to let it warm the battery while parked... to improve "performance", and probably the life of battery cells.)

· · 5 years ago

For me it's getting 4 skis in there, or my surfboard. I haul computer equipment/monitors around a lot, too. Racks are practical, but nothing beats being able to toss the equipment in back-- done. Smile, drive off. But for the price/looks/technology, I'll compromise on that Fusion Energi. Otherwise I'd have to bump up to the mid-grade Tesla or Tesla X, which is a bit too rich for my blood before the kids are out of college.

· · 5 years ago

@Jim T,

Cold takes a small hit on the battery's ability to hold a charge. But the real hit is from the heater. The 2012 Leaf's heater is terrible. Just last week I went skiing. In the teens outside, 65 miles round trip, 1200' elevation change and no stops to charge. I still had easily another 10+ miles to drive. BUT I had to forgo the heater. The heated seats/steering wheel are awesome. By contrast, with the heater on, my range is close to 45 miles. The 2013 Leaf has a heat pump, so it's far more efficient, although probably not enough for my 65 mile trip.

· · 5 years ago

Brian Schwerdt,

FFE's hatch storage space volume is identical to the Leaf's, both at 14.5 cu ft. I haven't taken a Leaf to the market for comparison, but my family of 4's groceries fit perfectly well in my FFE with room for the rest of us up front. Now I'm not shopping at Costco, I'm just getting what we actually need for the week.
I understand the split-level floor of the hatch space is a problem for some, but for me it actually helps keep grocery bags in place. I leave the "cargo management system" in the garage since it pretty much just takes up space. If someone needs a flat cargo floor the "system" comes in handy. Anyway, I guess my point is that while the FFE has less cargo space than its gasoline siblings, it doesn't have less than its competition.

· · 5 years ago

>> it doesn't have less than its competition

Are we competing in price, or overall vehicle size?

· · 5 years ago


I've seen the back of a FFE and while I trust your numbers, they can be deceptive. How much of that 14.5cu ft is above the seat back of the rear seat? I refuse to subject my toddler to the possibility of flying object to the face in a sudden-stop scenario. The Leaf's cargo area is very deep - there's pretty much nothing underneath it's floor. The volume above the seat back is minimal due to the way the rear hatch is shaped.

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