Chevrolet Volt versus Ford C-Max Energi Extended Drive

2 years ago by Lyle Dennis 92

2013 Ford C-Max Energi

2013 Ford C-Max Energi

This week I traded in my Chevy Volt for the new Ford C-Max Energi.  I have outlined my reasons for this previously, but it really only comes down to my family’s new need for a fifth seat.  To make it very clear, I love the Volt and think it is an awesome car.The C-Max Energi becomes the fourth plug-in vehicle I have owned.  We have a Nissan Leaf and, prior to my two years of driving the Volt, I spent a year driving the Mini-E.

With the perspective I have, I thought it might be useful to present my experience with the C-Max as it compares and contrasts with the Chevy Volt, as the cars, though somewhat different, are relatively comparable.

Styling

The C-Max Energi And Hybrid

Beauty is always in the eyes of the beholder, and in this category the two are particularly different.  When trading in the Volt, I could eyeball them both simultaneously.

The Volt has a more low-to-the-ground, sleek-sedan appearance.  The C-Max is a crossover.

The C-Max looks bigger and is definitely taller.  The rear cargo region has a high roofline.  They both seem to have a modern, clean and technical appearance.  The Ford speaks to utility and usability, whereas the Volt speaks to commuting.  Both are unique and stand out from most cars on the road.

Performance

In this category, the cars are similar yet distinct.  Both vehicles offer the quick takeoff provided by the instant torque of the electric motor.  Ford seems to titrate that experience based on being in D or L, with L producing a quicker takeoff.  Volt has a similar sports mode, too.  Both cars feel heavier than would be expected of their size, undoubtedly due to the battery packs.  Volt has its weight very low and central, whereas it could be felt shifted somewhat to the rear in the Ford, where the battery is located.

The Volt rides very low to the ground, perhaps a bit too much for my taste.  Though it makes the car road-hugging, there was frequent scraping of the front air dam going up and down steep inclines or speed bumps.  The Ford sits higher and perkier on the road similar to, though less acute, than you would perceive in an SUV.

Braking seemed similar in the two vehicles and quite acceptable, maybe a tad firmer in the Ford.  The Volt could take turns slightly faster due to its lower center of gravity.

Interior

The Ford C-Max is more spacious that the Volt and has a taller roof, thus adding to the experience of volume.

The center stack in the C-Max is more conventional, as is the more robust, sturdy and definitive shifter.

Frankly, I always found the Volt interface a little bothersome and never got used to the radio inadvertently going on no matter what button I pressed (fixed in newer models).  Overall, I prefer the Ford interface, though I do miss having the OnStar service at the ready.  The 2011 Volt also included a standard navigation system, which is optional in the Ford (and newer Volts).

The key difference between the two, and the only reason I traded my Volt for the C-Max, is the presence of a three-person bench in the rear.  The Volt can only sit two in the back due to the placement of the battery.

The Ford compromises cargo space however, as the battery juts up into the cargo compartment, reducing the cargo volume by about 20%.

 

Fuel Efficiency

In this category both cars achieve something that non-plugin cars cannot: astounding fuel economy.  The fuel economy is quite different between the two vehicles and is a function of driving pattern.

Fortunately I have a short 6-mile round trip daily commute.  The Ford is EPA rated at 21 miles pure EV range.  So far, I have seen that a fully charged battery displays an expected range of 15 miles.  Mile for mile on my 6 mile commute it runs about 20% better than that.  It is somewhat cold outside and I would imagine range will improve with higher ambient temperatures.

The 5th Seat Is a Big Advantage Over Cross-Town Rival Chevrolet Volt

The Volt is clearly superior in pure EV driving range, with the current model getting around close to 40 miles on average.  However, if your daily commute is below 20 miles, figure both will be equal.  In the 20 to 100 mile range, the Volt will be superior.  Beyond that, the Ford may be slightly better.

In non-EV mode, I think both cars are similar – the Ford is EPA rated at 43 mpg whereas the Volt gets 37 mpg.

I have so far taken two longer drives in the C-Max Energi.  First I took a 25 mile round trip, left home with a partially charged battery indicating 12 miles of range, and it managed to deliver 12.4 miles. Driving back mostly at highway speed but keeping it between 55 and 60 mph I got 34.3 mpg.

The Ford has the option of driving purely EV up to 85 mph until the battery depletes, or you can choose to drive in AUTO mode where the car uses the battery and gas alternatively as the on-board computer determines which mode is most efficient.  This is not an option in the Volt.

I tested AUTO mode over a 45-mile round trip with a fully charged battery.  At the end of the trip, the display indicated I had driven 23.8 EV miles and got an overall efficiency of 53.8 mpg.  This was mostly highway driving at 60 to 65 mph.

Of note, both gas engines sound similar and tended to be higher revving and noisier than you would expect at given driving speeds.

Price

The Volt MSRP is $39,145 and the Ford C-Max Energi is $32,950.  However the Volt has a $7500 tax credit and the C-Max has only a $3750 tax credit.  Thus the Volt’s effective price is $31,645 and the C-Max is $29,200, a difference of just $2,445.

Bottom Line

The two cars are closely priced, drive similarly, are high tech and fun.  They get tremendous fuel economy.  Overall, the Volt offers more gas-free driving potential, but that depends on your driving behavior.  The Ford offers rear seating for three, better interface, combined gas and battery AUTO mode, and a larger crossover design.

If you have questions you would like me to ask about the differences between the two, put them in the comments below.  I will try to answer them all in a post next week.

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92 responses to "Chevrolet Volt versus Ford C-Max Energi Extended Drive"

  1. shawn marshall says:

    great update – thanks.

  2. GeorgeS says:

    Thx Lyle for the update this is the article I have been waiting for.

    I am a little confused though about the pure CS mode MPG. Looks like you are agreeing that Ford has somewhat overstated the pure cs mode MPG as you noted a test value of 34 MPG vs 43 EPA.

    Also,53.8 overall MPG for a 45 mile round trip on a charged battery doesn’t sound very good. I can get that in my Prius without having to charge so that makes the standard Prius (not the plug in) more efficient.

    1. john says:

      George you are missing half of the picture trying to compare a non-plug in to a plug-in. A Prius will always get better MPG if drive very long trips (much longer than the available pure EV range). However, if you drive a plug-in with an EV range that matches well with your daily commute the MPG will be much higher and the total cost of fuel (gas+electricity) will be MUCH less than it would be in a Prius.

      This will seem a little long winded but if you bare with me I will try to explain. The difference is the cost of electricity vs. the cost of gas. If your EV range matches well with your commute you use mostly electricity and very little if any gas. The easiest way to compare the cost is to look at a Volt that will go about the same distance on a charge as it will on a gallon of gas. A full charge on a volt will take about 11 KWh. I pay 12.8 cents per KWh to charge my Volt. That works out to $1.41 per charge. A gallon of gas (which will take you the same distance in a Volt) is over $4.00.A Prius will take you farther on a gallon but it will still cost more. With a plug-in, 38 miles for $1.41 is 3.7 cents per mile. A Prius getting 55 mpg with $4/gal gas will cost 7.3 cents/mile. That is about twice the cost of a plug-in.

  3. JoyF says:

    Why do they have to make the EVs so unattractive looking? The original concept car of the Volt was so hot….

    1. Joe says:

      Car styling is important to some and not so much to others. When it comes to EVs, there are probably many reasons for particular styling, including getting the best economy because air drag can quickly drain batteries, especially at high speeds with high wind resistance. Styling that is tight and functional can be considered beautiful. Styling that appeals to fashion but offers no benefit other than showing a lot of vulgar bling is fairly ugly to me. All a matter of taste and what’s important to you.

  4. Schmeltz says:

    That was a good comparison article. It sounds like although the two cars look very different, their driving efficiencies are about the same. Even the net prices after the tax rebates are relatively close.

    My question for you: What do you think you will miss the most about the Volt, Lyle?

  5. ClarksonCote says:

    Thanks for the review Lyle!

    It sounds like the CMax gets the same gas mileage as the Volt, on average, yet it is EPA rated as getting 10+ more MPG… That’s strange.

    1. Brian says:

      43-37 ~= 10+ MPG

      However, it is disappointing that many over at fordcmaxenergiforum.com are reporting lower than EPA mileage. Maybe it has to do with the weather? Maybe Ford’s numbers are slightly inflated? Or maybe people really are driving the car more aggressively (as a Ford spokesman suggested).

      1. Eric Cote says:

        Thanks Brian I was referring to the fact that Lyle was observing 34.3MPG versus the EPA rating of 43, though I guess I should have said 8+ and not 10+… I suppose I was exaggerating too much with the addition of that plus sign after the 10. ;)

        That, and I phrased the second sentence of my response extremely poorly (i.e. incorrectly), so I can see why you would have thought I was comparing Volt EPA rating to Leaf EPA rating. Apologies! :)

        1. Rob Lewis says:

          It’s possible that the 43mpg rating is a combined city/highway figure. The 34.3mpg was obtained at highway speeds. Unlike conventional cars, EVs and hybrids always get lower mileage on the highway than around town.

          1. Alex says:

            Not the new Fusion Hybrid.

    2. jack879 says:

      If Lyle needed a fifth seat and still get great gas mileage, he should have bought a non hybrid Chevy Cruze Eco that’s rated 42mpg on the highway. Or the Cruze that’s rated 38 if he does not like a standard shift transmission.. I own a Cruze and love it.

  6. BryanC says:

    Since the Energi’s battery is smaller, I’ve been wondering about the all electric mode power output. How does acceleration in pure EV mode compare to acceleration in mixed mode? Is pure EV mode unacceptably slow? Thanks.

    1. Joule Thief says:

      BryanC,

      I got to test drive a C-Max Energi a couple weeks ago at the Phoenix Auto Show. I did a full-throttle acceleration in EV only mode and it was very acceptable. It was not as quick as my Volt, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised.

    2. Puzzlegal says:

      I bought a C-max recently, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised how powerful it is in pure electric mode. I am comfortable merging onto interstates.

  7. Steve says:

    Lyle – regarding your 45 mile trip averaging 53MPG, can you compare that to the MPG you would have received in the Volt? Both cars starting with fully charged batteries? Thanks.

    1. Joule Thief says:

      It’s quite possible for a Volt to cover the entire 45 miles in 100% EV mode giving infinite MPG. However, conservatively by the EPA numbers let’s say Volt covered only the first 35 miles all-electric and the remaining 10 miles using gas averaging 37mpg. In that scenario the Volt would burn just over a quarter gallon of gas yielding an overall MPG of 166.5 (or roughly 80MPGe).

      1. SD Lurker says:

        The engineer in me has a fit when I see a discussion about “infinite MPG”. The only rational way to compare plug-in Hybrid EVs is in terms of equivalent MPG – that is, to assign a cost to each KW-hr supplied by your electric company which has been consumed and then convert the cost of those KW-hrs to equivalent gallons of gas.

        After all, the main reason that EVs have had a resurgence in popularity is that it’s CHEAPER to fill up the battery with electrons from the utility than it is to fill up the tank with gas. A gasoline engine is subject to thermodynamic efficiency limits – your automotive IC engine may extract only 25% of the energy in the gasoline that cost you so dearly and the other 75% is lost as waste heat to the environment.

        The typical utility plant burns far cheaper fossil fuel (coal or natural gas) and can extract upwards of 50% of the available energy in that fuel (almost 60% for some high efficiency plants).

        So when we plug-in to an outlet and fill our EV’s batteries, the thermodynamic cycle penalties (losses) have already been paid by the utility and we get the highest form of pure energy, electricity, 90-95% of which can be directly converted to the usable kinetic energy of our vehicle with only minor losses.

        Of course with the world the way it is there is great uncertainty in the future cost of gasoline, as we have witnessed over the last 40 years. So IC engines will probably become progressively more expensive to operate, particularly with the current administration that seems committed to make it so. By contrast we are seeing a domestic revolution in natural gas production which is likely to assure large quantities of NG available to electric power plants at stable low prices for a long time into the future giving further advantage to electric “fuel” over fossil fuel.

        If automotive batteries could be manufactured today that had the same energy capacity and same low cost to build as the lowly gas tank, and if every service station offered quick charging capability, there would be little reason for anyone to buy a gasoline powered vehicle other than auto collectors and auto romantics. But that technological barrier to broad acceptance of the EV is not likely to change anytime soon. It is still all about money.

        1. Alex says:

          Well Said

        2. michel taine says:

          Extremely well argued and written essay on the general concept of EV.
          Many thanks and congratulations from France!

        3. Joule Thief says:

          To clarify, I was directly answering the question that was asked, not bragging about infinite MPG. As an engineer myself, I also understand it’s important adhere to the definitions of MPG vs. MPGe. Strictly speaking, if you drive a Volt 100% EV, your MPG is infinite as zero gas is consumed.

          I agree MPG is a misleading and irrelevant number, which is why I also provided MPGe in my answer. But again the question was comparing the MPG figure of the C-Max to the Volt and my point (that I perhaps could have made clearer) was that a comparison of MPG at that distance could result in an infinite calculation due to the Volt’s superior range. I could have just said that it would be possible for the Volt to cover that distance without using any gas making it impossible to calculate MPG. And then gave MPGe.

          At any rate, you’re preaching to the choir here…

        4. Ralph says:

          We bought a C-Max energi about a month ago and just love it. Fordtouch takes some getting use to. I do have an issue with the battery range though
          I leave with a full charge and it indicates anywhere from 12 miles to 21 miles. Temperature here in the NW has been around 38-44. I notice that if
          I take it out in the am to run errands and plug it in, I get the best range on
          that second plug in of the day. The car had 300 miles on it when we bought
          it. Do you think there is an issue with the dealer not fully charging it after
          these demo drives?

          1. john says:

            temperature has considerable effect on range. The Volt has liquid heated/cooled battery cells to help minimize the effects. I am not sure what the c-max uses. When the weather warms up you will probably see better range. You are likely getting better range on the second charge because the batteries are warm the second time around

  8. BlindGuy says:

    Lyle, I am glad that you were able to get your C max Energi configured the way you wanted before the next tax year. I would like to point-out that you are comparing your 2011 Volt to the 2013 Energi. In our 2013 Volt, the radio can be powered on/off, the way it should have been for yours. Also, navigation is not standard anymore with the Volt. When we were shopping, the best feature we noticed in the Energi was the spacious passenger room, especially head room compared with any vehicle and especially to the Volt. For me, with 2 passengers, the Volt won over-all because of more AER and tax credit for more battery and over-all a more refined electric ride/performance. Whoever melds these 2 vehicles together and puts the batteries under the floor will dominant the market JMO.

  9. Dave G says:

    Just a note: The Volt no longer offers GPS standard. In order to get GPS, you have to buy it together with the Bose sound system for $1400.

  10. Don Weiser says:

    Lyle,
    Thanks for the article. I’ve been curious how the two vehicles compare. I’ve had my Ford C-Max Hybrid for 3 weeks now and I’m liking it very much. Yes, my m.p.g. isn’t 47 although I have gotten 42, my average is 38 which is still fine with me. Maybe Ford will write all C-Max owners checks to compensate for the 8 to 10 m.p.g. difference between what was claimed and real-world experience.
    At the risk of being nit-picky I think you need someone there to proof your writing before it’s published for both grammar/spelling and facts. I found just these and I’m sure there are more:
    “The Ford sites …. ” should be “cites” not “sites”.

    “The key difference between the two, and the only reason I traded my Volt for the C-Max is the present of a three … ” should be “presence” not “present”.

    “The Ford offers a third rear seat, … ” I know you meant to say room for three in the 2nd row seat but this is misleading.
    Don

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Lyle does not bow to conventional Judeo-Christian guidelines when it comes to writing, (=

      /throws it on the ground

      1. nasaman/Phil says:

        Hilarious (and accurate) reply, Jay! But then I’m an EE & physicist and I still can’t always spell “engine-gear” or “physi-est” right, so let’s forgive the poor “newer-ologist”, OK?

        1. Jay Cole says:

          Nice to see you Phil, been awhile, (=

          ps) it seems like all professionals tend to ‘have their way’ with the written word…no time for silly rules

      2. Eric Cote says:

        Haha, love it!

    2. Brian says:

      Don,

      I’m glad you are enjoying your C-Max. However, I am surprised that you misquote the mileage figure. The C-Max Energi is rated at 43MPG, not 47MPG. 47 MPG is for the (non-plug-in) Hybrid. The difference is due to different gearing and, less significantly, the extra weight of the battery.

      The sticker which the dealer was required to give you when you bought your car should say 43MPG.

      1. Don Weiser says:

        Hi Brian,
        Sorry for the confusion. My C-Max is not the Energi but rather the Hybrid, as I stated, so my claim of expecting 47 m.p.g. is correct. I couldn’t resist posting to thank Lyle for his comparison of the Volt and C-Max Energi and throwing in something about my C-Max Hybrid that I thought some might find helpful. This is my first American vehicle in 40 or 50 years and I’m very impressed. I traded in my 2009 Honda Fit Sport for it and while I liked the Fit very much, the C-Max is clearly a nicer vehicle.
        Don

        1. Don Weiser says:

          When I Reply to my own post am I talking to myself I wonder?
          :)
          Just wanted to say I like Hondas and think they’re very well built vehicles BUT I owned a Honda Insight (hybrid) and I couldn’t get rid of it fast enough! The C-Max seems to have none of the “sins” (roughness, brakes, shaking, etc.) of the Insight. It feels like a regular car.
          Don

    3. Ward says:

      Thanks Lyle, I understood what you meant perfectly! Keep sharing your experiences, please.

  11. Lyle,
    Nice piece. Good to see you out there writing about plug-ins again :-)

  12. Walter says:

    Could you please clarify the “53.5 mpg” from your AUTO trip? If that’s like the Volt’s center stack mpg, where it count electric miles for free, then it’s not impressive at all – that’d be about 26 MPGcs. If that’s a MPGcs number, then auto clearly does some pretty clever stuff. Or Ford could be doing something with MPGe somehow?

    1. GeorgeS says:

      Agreed Walter (see my same question above). There must be something wrong with this number. Almost half of these miles should have been electric so we should still see at least around 65 -70 MPG.

  13. Cindy Harper says:

    So very excited about this review and I loved how the CMax felt when I sat in it. I have not test drove the hybrid or the energi and not sure when the Energi will be in Texas. I believe we saw one at the fair but we were just able to sit in it. I loved the interior, the interface of the bluetooth with your phone and the my connect features. I can’t wait to drive the Energi to see if it’s the car for me. My boyfriend has the Volt and we love it but the biggest thing I’m excited about is the fact that it has the ability to have the back hatch auto raise with your foot because being that I’m the one who does the grocery shopping and i’m a female, it will be safer, easier and faster. You didn’t mention that feature in any of your reviews and i know it may not be standard with the base level but it’s a must for me and it’s not even an option for the Volt. Another feature even though you mention it’s 20% less cargo space, you can’t open the hatch and sit down in the Volt where as you could in the Cmax if you were at a ball game or somewhere and needed to get under the tailgate to put on shoes, or get out of the rain to load the car. I’m also interested in the auto park feature even though I might be hesitant to use it at first I still think it’s a great feature because I might be able to parallel park more where as now I would drive around forever just to not have to parallel park even though i’m not that bad at it, it’s still uncomfortable to do. There were more options for usb plugs and a 110 outlet in the backseat of the CMax that you failed to mention which would come in hand for blowing up a mattress if you were camping or charing your electronics if needed. I’m thinking for the camping and sports fans out there this is a vehicle that is somewhat sporty and smaller than your typical SUV/crossover with the best part being that it offers you the ability to be EV friendly and use less gas.

    1. GeorgeS says:

      ” a 110 outlet in the backseat of the CMax that”
      Really?? are you sure about that??
      If so that would be especially handy in the energi with its extra battery.

      1. ClarksonCote says:

        Well, if that’s the case, I guess I won’t be making a converter kit like this for the Energi, hah! http://www.evextend.com/Emergency-Power-Kit.php

      2. Hammer says:

        George S: I drive a C-Max Hybrid and can confirm the 110 VAC outlet is there.

        1. Puzzlegal says:

          Agreed. But it’s only designed to power small things. I forget the unit, but it’s about 1/10th of what a household socket delivers. Enough to power your laptop or DVD player, but not enough to plug into your house or anything.

    2. Brian says:

      Excellent points to highlight. Maybe Lyle doesn’t use any of these features, but it may be a selling point for others.

      On the topic of cargo room – it’s worth pointing out that the C-Max Energi has 20% less cargo area than the C-Max Hybrid (non-plug-in) due to the extra battery. The C-Max Energi actually has 80% MORE cargo room than the Volt (19.2 cubic feet to 10.6 cubic feet).

    3. Don Weiser says:

      Cindy,
      This will sound like an ad for the C-Max but if you drive one, you’ll buy one.
      Don

  14. Stuart22 says:

    Thanks for the report Lyle. I guess the real question each of us who don’t need a fifth seat is – which is better? My answer is – I’ll stick with the Volt due to its significantly superior full electric range. Isn’t that the main raison d’etre with these? The more electric miles, the merrier. The fewer the e-miles, the more ‘gas anxiety’ I’d be suffering from….

    1. Puzzlegal says:

      I got a hybrid electric so I wouldn’t suffer gas anxiety. :)

      I think the importance of range depends on your regular driving habits. The C-Max fit our driving habits better than the Prius, but the Volt doesn’t buy us all that much more. A few additional electric miles on long trips, but we can do our ordinary weekly stuff with the C-Max. If your ordinary trips are longer than ours, the Volt might be better. For me, the extra seat and the extra “trucnk” room made the C-Max a better car.

  15. nasaman/Phil says:

    An EXCELLENT comparison of the Ford C-Max Energi with the Volt — by the guy who very possibly made the Volt happen, or at least helped GM “birth” it as a very competent “mid-wife”!

    Before flying to Lyle’s inspired VoltNation gathering preceding the 2008 NYC Auto Show, I bought a new 2008 Saturn Vue crossover with the expectation that I’d trade it for the future Vue Plug-in when it became available. Alas, GM shut down Saturn as part of its controlled bankruptcy. And although GM’s extensive design effort and stellar test results on the plug-in Vue caused me to hope the design would reappear as a Chevy, Buick or GMC, it never happened (yet). :<(

    So Lyle, thanks for helping me psychologically withdraw just a little bit more from my profound disappointment that the Vue plug-in hasn't been reincarnated (yet). It's reassuring that the very similar C-Max Energi (horrible name for a vehicle!), must mean that some of Ford's folks agreed with me about the desirability of a competent crossover plug-in!

  16. MrEnergyCzar says:

    I thought the C-Max had a top EV speed of 62 and the Fusion Plug-in went 85?

    MrEnergyCzar

    1. Joule Thief says:

      I think you’re mixing up the C-Max with the Plug-in Prius. The PiP has a top EV speed of 62mph. Both Energi’s top EV speed is 85mph AFAIK.

    2. Brian says:

      I believe you’re also confusing the Energi and the Hybrid. The C-Max Hybrid (non-plug-in) has a max EV speed of 65 mph. The C-Max Energi has a max EV speed of 85mph. The way I understand it, this is accomplished by different gear ratios, which in turn affects the CS MPG. C-Max Hybrid is rated at 47MPG. C-Max Energi is rated at 43MPG.

    3. Puzzlegal says:

      I bought a C-Max energi in February, and it drives comfortably at interstate speeds in EV mode. I haven’t tested to see what it’s max speed is, but I’m pretty sure I’ve tooled along at 70 and it wasn’t feeling strained.

  17. arlene says:

    First, I’m an engineer and a BEV type. Did the Mini-E for 3 years and now the ActiveE. Not what this question is about though. If one accepts the requirement of extended range, i.e. some hundreds of miles lets say, then why do we build cars that have a highly limited EV range? From a complexity of systems perspective and from an overall performance perspective (weight, handling), it would seem that the optimized full hybrid is the way to go. This is not a backhanded Prius advertisement. I’m simply wondering how the market is going to treat very short range PHEV type vehicles? I live in a small town and still go better than 25 miles per required charge, on average. The LA people in the BMW program seem to go considerably farther than I. Volt seemed to have nailed the 80% with the approximately 40 miles and would seem to be directed at the one car family. I think I understand that market. What are the manufacturers thinking for cars such as Energi and PiP?

    1. Jim I says:

      IMHO, I think there are two reasons:

      1. Bragging rights: Take a vehicle already in your lineup and add a PHEV option. Great for advertising and to try to keep customers from jumping to another vendor. It is a quick catchup. On this point, I still think the technological winner is GM with the Volt, as it was designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle with extended range capabilities. But it remains to be seen if they can hold on to that lead.

      2, Smaller battery pack size means less AER, but it also means lower pricing. And since Lyle compared the Volt to the C-Max Energi, so will Ford. But they will not talk about the 50% less all electric range, they will talk about a 5th seat and a lower cost.

      I don’t see these two vehicles as comparable. The Volt was designed to be an all electric car for daily commuting that would provide the range for about 80% of daily commuters. The C-Max Energi can’t make those same claims. With a 21 mile AER, less than 50% of daily commuters will be able to drive all electric.

      Of course, individual needs will vary. In my personal case, I would use a lot more gasoline with the Ford than I do with the Chevy. But for Lyle, with his very short daily commute, he will not see that increase in gasoline consumption. And he feels that the 5th seat is a major concern. That is not an issue with me.

      In the end, it all depends upon what your needs are for a vehicle. For me, the Volt has delivered everything that GM promised, and I could not be more pleased. For others, a different vehicle will suit their needs. That competition will only make things better!

      2012 Black Volt – C-5277

      1. Joule Thief says:

        Well said my Volt brother ;)

        2012 Viridian Joule Volt – C-5274

        1. Jim I says:

          It looks like I was just three cars behind you on the assembly line…..

          :)

    2. BlindGuy says:

      Totally agree with you Arlene. I think: CAFÉ, CARB and HOV compliant may have a lot to do with PHEVs having minimal EV range for ? less money. With current incentives: 2K cash rebate, 0#% financing and below MSRP prices and much better tax credits, it is possible to buy a Volt for less than some of the current Energis available JMO. If I could afford a little higher payment, we would have waited and bought a BMW I3 w/range extender and probably could drive all electric 99% of the time 

    3. JP says:

      Arlene,
      I’m taking a guess here, but I think the SREVs (short range EVs) are designed to take care of the people with commutes shorter than 20 miles. That way, they get to work on EV, plug in; and get home on EV after work. The theory would be, half the battery, half the weight and cost. Over time, batteries will get smaller and cheaper, thereby reducing cost and weight while extending range.

  18. Rashiid Amul says:

    Excellent article Lyle,
    I think I like the Ford better as it has the 5 seats.
    My commute now is 5 miles round trip and my wife’s is 16.
    If I bought this, she would most likely get it.

    I’ve been gone for a while. I see a lot of familiar names here.
    I miss you guys.

    –Rashiid

    1. Schmeltz says:

      Good to see you again Rashiid! Hope all is well with you and yours!

      1. Rashiid Amul says:

        Thanks Schmeltz,
        I’m doing okay. The economy killed me, but I’m standing on my own two feet. :)

  19. T.M. Scruggs says:

    Jim I and Rashiid, the previous 2 quotes, I think nail the differences:
    1. if your commute is as small as Lyle’s, then the Volt’s longer e-range doesn’t matter.
    2. 5th seat is a deal breaker for some families.

    Smaller concerns:
    3. Right now Ford is slightly cheaper. After Dec. 31st maybe much more so.
    4. Handling/driving performance of Volt is slightly better.

    I myself really want a sun/moonroof!

    T.M.

    1. T.M. Scruggs says:

      oops — just checked out the Ford website more closely: “Panoramic” window roof is an available option.

      I myself do like the Volt’s concept as being an electric car w/ a small gas generator motor, as opposed to a hybrid where both systems power the drive train. I would guess the Volt’s idea will take over as the next level between hybrid and fully electric w/ really long range and/or swappable batteries and/or some kind of quick charge that makes across country w/ a full recharge over lunch possible.

    2. Jim I says:

      I would be just as happy if they made a two seat version of the Volt………

      2012 Black Volt – C-5277

  20. Mark H says:

    I know this article is comparing the 2011 Volt to the 2013 C-Max Energi but worth mentioning…

    Volt EV range was quoted at 37mpg, needs to be corrected for 2013 models

    Volt was misquoted of not being able to start on gas. This is accomplished with the “Hold” mode found in 2013 models

    No mention of the specific torque differences. This I think along with the 5th seat to be the biggest difference between the Chevy Volt vs (Toyota Plug-in Prius/Ford C-Max Energi)

    1. Mark H says:

      And of course the electric range. The C-Max is an excellent choice for the 10-20 mile commute. There will be a large market for this car as well as the smaller commute found in the Plug-in Prius. There is also going to be a large market for 40 mile EREVs like the Chevy Volt. One of these EREV’s combined with a BEV of your choosing in every garage truly will change the world.

  21. Sterling says:

    My 2012 Volt is an absolute perfect fit for me. I don’t need to haul a passenger, thus seating for 5 isn’t a problem. I agree that the Volt interface is “bothersome” and I am somewhat irritated at times when I need to quickly change the temp setting in the AC. In my 2010 Silverado, I can change the temp from full heat to full cold in a nanosecond. In my Volt (especially while driving) it takes way to long and is a distraction with the software driven method, over a simple knob that protrudes from the dash as in most vehicles I have owned… But I am always impressed that even on cold days I am able to drive the 43.6 miles from two properties I own, totally on a single charge at each location having a 240 volt charger.

    The Ford C-Max would be nice with the higher ground clearance since I drive my Volt in pasture grasses and on dirt roads, but it is handling the task very well. After nearly 6,000 miles in my Volt, I have learned to tune out the scuffing noise of the air dam, but GOD the glare of that shiny plastic dash and chrome trim is killing my eyes on sunny days.

    I could toss more bales of hay in the back of the C-Max, but the Volt holds three bales in the back and works out for this goat rancher just fine.

    Nearly 6,000 miles and not once have I stopped at a gas station to buy gas and my 2012 Volt will run well into 2013 before I finally do some day, pop the cap and put some fresh fuel in it.

    Gotta love these electric vehicles!

  22. scottf200 says:

    Re: “23.8 EV miles” in “Auto” but normally 15 and EPA of 21??

    This does not seem to pass the smell test to me. Does “Auto” include NOT ONLY the EV miles from the electricity via the wall plug BUT ALSO EV miles from the gas generator or regen? I was pretty sure the Plug-In-Prius (PIP) does that but those are not true EV miles from most peoples perspectives. For example, no one says the regular Prius has X number of EV miles and Y number of gas miles. It is just combined to get ~50 MPG.

    Example, on the Volt if you are driving 55-60 MPH and you run, say 40 EV/CD miles, then you run out of EV miles so it switches to gas miles (aka CS). It may build up a SMALL battery buffer (since the gas engine is tuned to run WOT) and shut the gas generator down … the next X.X miles are NOT added to the EV miles displayed in the car.

    Perhaps I’m confused but just trying to make sure there is valid comparison going on.

  23. TomNY says:

    Thanks for the interesting article. I would love to try the Volt, but it wasn’t suitable for me based on size, so I bought the C-max Energi. It is perfect for my short commute, but i have been curious about the mileage thing like everybody else. Yesterday I took a 40 mile trip of mostly highway on hybrid only (I used up the battery on the way out in the AM and refilled and reset the counters at lunchtime) and got an indicated MPG of 43.8. I am not a hypermiler, but I did try to keep the speed at or below 60 because it is a brand new engine. Also, I use the heated seats because the HVAC system can drop the all electric range by about 5miles and I won’tcomplete my round trip on all electric.

    I think people aren’t getting the mileage because the car accelerates so much better than the Prius and it is tempting to push it. I have had several 50 MPG tanks on my Prius, but when I drive it hard, especially in the winter, the MPG can drop to the mid-30s too.

    1. evnow says:

      You should do the same trip in Prius and see how much you get.

  24. TomNY says:

    Also, I forgot to mention that my round trip, plus a mile or two at lunchtime, is 18 miles and I usually have 2-4 EV miles left when I get home. I had to change my route to get this, but it works well.

  25. CCMidwest says:

    I test drove a 2013 Volt & a 2013 C-Max Hybrid. Had the Volt’s ground clearance been around 5.5″ (like the C-Max) instead of 3″, I would have purchased the Volt in a nanosecond.

    I wasn’t very impressed with the C-Max hybrid. It had more of a utility feel than the Volt . My impression of the C-Max is that it is a combination of a Honda Fit & Toyota Matrix. Very utility. The Volt is more sport & comfort.

    So, I am back on the sidelines, ready & willing to buy an extended range electric vehicle, but, alas, Chevrolet has yet to address the front air dam issue so that more buyers can “buy in”. With articles & complaints about the issue, you’d think they would have gotten a clue by now.

    1. Stuart22 says:

      Why don’t you pull the trigger on the Volt, then just remove the damn dam and be done with it? Or do what I do – ignore the occasional scraping, and consider the dam a consumable item.

      1. CCMidwest says:

        I have a steep driveway, so it would be a daily scraping.

        1. Richard Camp says:

          @CCMidwest,

          I felt the same way as you concerning the air dam in the front. My wife and I both purchased Volts, and while hers had the front air dam installed, mine did not. So she occasionally scrapes while driving, I never have.

          The lack of the dam on my car hasn’t seemed to make any difference in EV range. I realize that differences in driving style between my wife and myself could play a role, but currently we both get the same range. I’m driving at 99% electric.

    2. Jim I says:

      You can get a different air dam from GM for the Volt that will reduce the scraping, but it will also reduce the AER by a mile or two.

      I only have two places where I get a scrape from that front air dam. I guess I am lucky in that respect. If it does wear through at some point, I will go to the shorter version.

      2012 Black Volt – C-5277

      1. GeorgeS says:

        Agreed. I was worried at first but now I just let it scrape. It doesn’t seem to mind.

    3. Puzzlegal says:

      The C-Max energi is more fun to drive than the C-max hybrid. I can’t tell you why, exactly, but I test-drove both and I was surprised by the difference. The breaking in the energi is also much smoother than in the hybrid, unless they have improved the programming or something.

  26. flmark says:

    The air dam issue is a NON issue. I took the Volt to do all my deer hunting this year, which involved dirt roads with ruts. While some scraping occurred, I would say it lunacy to not buy the Volt just because of ground clearance.

    1. srl99 says:

      Where you put dead deer in Volt?

      1. Gaius Gracchus says:

        LOL!!! :0)

  27. DonS says:

    I am a recent C-Max Energi purchaser. One factor is that the battery is right-sized for my needs. To me it seems reasonable to assume one battery replacement at about nine or ten years out. I plan on owning long term. Replacing a battery half the size will cost significantly less even at a $250/kWh level. If that battery is enough for most of my daily needs then it is a batter choice. There will not be one right choice for everybody.

  28. usbseawolf2000 says:

    Lyle,

    Hope you don’t take it the wrong way but this has to be asked since your commute is only 6 miles and you can recharge at work.

    Did you consider PiP? It would give your regular commute (at 55-60 mph) in EV and 50 MPG on gas.

    My PiP has been averaging 264 Wh/mi (charging loss included) on electricity and 55 MPG on gas. Bought it on Oct 20th so this is all winter miles. However, the winter has been warmer than usual.

    1. usbseawolf2000 says:

      You also get a flat cargo floor and 5 seats.

    2. Bobby says:

      He has a soul, so you won’t find him driving a PiP…

  29. Bloggin says:

    Very well written article. You prove that an auto review can be done, without having to trash one product to justify choosing another. Again….well done!

  30. Barry48 says:

    Thanks for this excellent article and discussion.

    You state: “In the 20 to 100 mile range, the Volt will be superior. Beyond that, the Ford may be slightly better.” Is this due to better hybrid mode performance or better mileage on gas engine, after battery depletion?

    I am finally ready to make 2013 my year to go PHEV, with the available models, and prices/incentives finally getting into my range. I love the 110 volt plug-in rate (7 hours) for the Energi. As soon as there are more Starbucks or McDonalds with Level 2 chargers (2.5 hours), a juice up during lunch on a trip will someday provide a little more EV operation.

    Another ‘over the rainbow’ in the near future-world for EV – solar roof panels and power cells. Beam me aboard…

  31. Vince Wolf says:

    It’s amazing how many leaf footed drivers out there. I own the Cmax Energi having got mine over a month ago. I get 53.3 mpg in charge sustaining mode–in other words–if I drain the battery until it’s under 1 mile left–then use it as a pure hybrid–that’s the mpg I can maintain around town driving to keep the ‘blue’ maximized and the gas off as much as possible. Regardless of terrain or temperature–if I keep the heater off–I get that mileage around town. Of course it drops precipitously if you drive solely on the Interstates at 70 to 75 mph as the EPA never tests above 60 mph so that 41 mpg highway rating is only if you stay around 55-60 mph and the outside temperature is 70+. If it’s colder than hell (like in Colorado) then it can drop to the high 30′s and if you go 75 mph it will drop to the low 30′s (75 mph plus cold temps).

    But so far, on my first tank of gas (still half full) I am averaging over 75 mpg as using it mostly on EV power the majority of the time. I expect that will rise to over 100 mpg before I use up my first tank of fuel (it has been rising since filled up starting in the upper 20′s and continuing up the more I drive in EV mode).

    That 53.3 figure I get around town can be maintained if you stay in the blue zone and use hybrid power as much as possible–meaning the engine shuts off every time your going down a slight downgrade as the EV can push it along at the speed limits. I have driven 50 or more miles at a time in this mode and it stays 53.3 +- .5 mpg so long as I drive carefully.

    So most people are driving the cars way harder than their intended purpose.

    I also own the Prius and NEVER got the EPA ratings due to the high altitude here makes the tiny engine work too hard and it won’t get the ratings but it’s close–instead of 51/49 I would get 47/46 or so. Even babying it won’t improve it much–it just has to work too hard at 6000 feet elevation without a turbo to compensate for the high altitude and it’s weight.

    The Cmax on the other hand has much more power so that enables it to ‘loaf’ around even at this altitude and get better mileage in my opinion than the Prius–driving them the same on the same terrain.

  32. Adam says:

    Thanks for the informative comparison. I’m an early Volt owner (Dec. 2010) and also need to get back to a vehicle with 5 seats. I have a longer commute (67 miles roundtrip), so it sounds like my fuel efficiency will be substantially lower with the Cmax Energi. It’s also disappointing to hear that the Cmax also suffers from a noisier, higher revving quality when driving on the gas engine.

    Did you consider any other 5 seat EV or Plug-In Hybrid alternatives to the Volt?

  33. jason says:

    I drove the Fusion and Cmax hybrids over the past week. I was looking forward to trying the energi versions, but they were not available.I was disappointed that both design placed the batteries inside the trunk compartment. IMO those should be distributeed under the length of the vehicle. The Fusion hybrid trunk had this large battery “bump”. I was informed the Fusion Energi trunk was much less at 8.2 cu ft. For a family-sized sedan that is grossly under sized. Placing batteries in that location seems very second-thought. I will consider the Ford hybrid/PHEV product line when they have shown a better sense of design.

    1. Puzzlegal says:

      It is obvious that they took a gas car and shoved a big battery into it. That is the major downside. But the cars would be even more expensive if they had to devote extra R&D and a separate construction line to make them. Until plug-in cars become mainstream, I think a lot of us will have to live with this sort of compromise.

  34. Stuart22 says:

    B-b-b-b-b-but it has a 5th seat!

  35. Mat says:

    The third back seat is a huge thing. I would’ve bought this car just for that third back seat, since I have 3 kids and a wife. I do like the fact that my volt gives me on average, 45 miles of all electric driving every day, and I usually drive about 38 miles per day. Because I drive in alot of traffic and I usually keep it between 35 and 45 my entire commute, and I’m good a using the brakes and accellerator very efficiently (with bugs the drivers around me sometimes!), I very often can achieve over 50 miles per charge. When I park, my range usually says between 10 and 14 miles to go, and 38 miles driven. I can get a full charge in less than 8 hours, and my off peak is from 11 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. which is just long enough! I typically use around 8.8 to 9.0 kw per day, which gives me my 38 miles, and leaves me about 2 kw left in the battery. As long as I have owned my Volt…I have yet to put gas in it. I still have over a half tank (the same gas that was in it when I bought it).

    To me, this is really revolutionary. For me, the gas engine is just extra weight. I wonder what the range would be if they would have made the car without the xtra weight of the gas engine, the fuel tank, the exhuast, motor mounts, etc. How much lighter would the frame be without having to support the gas engine? Why didn’t they just put in a few more batteries, and forget the gas motor? The gas motor and the equipment it requires, and increases in weight because of it (bigger brakes, frame, the extra generator, etc. etc.) probably weigh over 1000 lbs. Subtract that weight, and even with it’s current battery, range would go up dramatically. It would be cheaper, without the cost of a gas motor. Next time, I hope they just go all electric. Really. It would’ve been smarter.