Ford and GM Plug-in Hybrids Are Both Gas-Free About 60 Percent of Driving

By · August 02, 2013

Ford Fusion Energi

Ford Fusion Energi

You get about the same percentage of pure electric miles from a series plug-in hybrid, like a Volt, as you do from a series-parallel plug-in hybrid, like the Ford Fusion Hybrid. That’s according to data from Ford and General Motors. Which technology you prefer may come down to the length of your commute and the size of your pocketbook.

Ford offers two plug-in electric models, the Fusion Energi sedan and the C-Max Energi small but tall wagon-like car. The automaker said that nearly 60 percent of trips in its Energi models are gas-free, based on aggregate data from its MyFord mobile application. The Energi models advertise an average of 21 miles of pure-electric range.

The number of pure electric miles is increasing as drivers own their plug-ins longer and learn how to drive for efficiency, said Ford. Early in the year, only 41 percent of miles were electric. By the middle of July, that had risen to nearly 60 percent. Ford credits the dashboard information offered by its MyFord system, such as driving efficiency and state of charge, for the improvement in all-electric miles driven over time.

Currently, about 60 percent of the Energi models on the road are C-Max and about 25 percent are Fusions. That fluctuates as more units are sold, but the C-Max has been on the market longer so “we see a larger usage rate with that vehicle,” said a Ford spokesperson.

Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

GM claims some 62 percent of all miles driven since the Volt went on sale in late 2010 were electric miles. The vehicle tracks all-electric miles through its OnStar software. OnStar has a tutorial screen that provides tips for improving all-electric miles that the customer can read when the car is not moving, Kevin Kelly, manager of electrification technology communications, told PluginCars.com.

Ford sold 2,482 C-Max Energi units in the first six months of 2013, and 1,584 Fusion Energi units. The Energi C-Max, at $33,800, went on sale last fall and the Fusion Energi, at $39,500, in late winter 2013. The Ford models are roomier than the Chevrolet Volt, which starts at $39,100. But the Volt, a plug-in series hybrid (also referred to as an extended-range electric car) offers 35 electric miles. It has a 1.4-liter gas engine that kicks in to recharge the battery after those electric miles. GM sold 9,855 Volts in the first six months of 2013.

Cost, Results and Driver Preference

“The primary reason to choose a series-parallel hybrid over a series hybrid is cost,” John German, a former Honda engineer now with the International Center for Clean Transportation told PluginCars.com.

In a Volt-like series hybrid, the electric motor provides all the propulsion power, so in theory it’s more electric. Meanwhile, a gasoline-powered engine assists when maximum acceleration needed in a series-parallel hybrid. So according to German, the series-parallel plug-in hybrid can use a smaller and less costly electric motor. The battery pack is also smaller—and thus less costly—in a series-parallel hybrid. The Fusion Hybrid’s battery pack is a little less than half the size of the Volt’s.

If all you care about is driving more continuous electric miles, the Chevrolet Volt provides more total EV miles, about 35 to 40, than the Ford Energi plug-in hybrid models, which provide about 20 miles. But in terms of total percentage of miles driven using electricity for most drivers, the Ford Energi models and the Volt are about equal in terms of total percentage of miles driven using electricity, according to data reported by the companies.

“I think the buyers of plug-in electric vehicles partly pick which one to buy based on the length of their commutes,” Mike Omotoso, senior manager for Global Powertrain at LMC Automotive Inc. told PluginCars.com. “Then of course there is brand loyalty, style preference, vehicle size, and price.”

The biggest hurdle to more electric miles driven, regardless of technology, may be a dearth of charging points. “As we see an increase in the number of public charging stations across the country, I think we’ll see more EV driving,” said Omotoso.

New to EVs? Start here

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