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.

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