Why I’m Trading in My Chevy Volt for a Ford C-MAX Energi

2 years ago by Lyle Dennis 72

 

A fifth seat.

Those three words are really the only reason.

I absolutely love and adore my Chevy Volt.  I take pride in the role I played encouraging GM to produce the car and in helping to build public support.

I have had the honor of owning the eighth unit off the production line since December of 2010.  So far I have driven the car 14,000 miles with a lifetime 190 mpg.  It has been a fun high tech and dependable car.  In fact I always imagined I would own the car for 20 or 30 years.  That is until this summer.

I am married with three young children now 6,10, and 13 years old. When I first bought the Volt our second car was a gas-powered three row SUV.

My wife became enamored with driving electric as well, and so when our SUV lease ended, she decided to get a Nissan LEAF.  The LEAF is an ideal car for her.  She drives a large number of miles, about 1500-1800 per month mostly on short 20 or so mile back and forth drives often shuttling the kids around.  In an SUV this needlessly burns a large volume of gas and requires frequent expensive trips to the gas station.

Since we only occasionally take long family drives, we figured we would rent a car for those trips.

In the summer we had a planned booked beach vacation, about 250 miles from home.  We reserved a rental car and when we went to pick it up the day of our trip, there was an error and no cars were available.  No other rental agencies were open that Sunday either.  We had no choice but to pack five of us into the Volt, and my wife and I took turns sitting with our daughter on our lap in one of the back seats.  It was awfully uncomfortable and technically dangerous.

The problem is, as great as the Volt is, it only has four seats.

The initial Volt concept car had a normal rear bench.  Personally I was surprised and disappointed when it was unveiled that the T-shaped battery pack would run through the center of the car cutting the rear bench into only two seats.

Fortunately, we have now arrived at a time, when more and more choice is becoming available among plugin cars.

Next month Ford is launching the sale of its newest plugin hybrid, the C-MAX Energi.  The vehicle is a small wagon or crossover design and has a 7.5 kwh lithium battery pack mounted below and behind the seats.  It offers a real world EV-only driving range of at least 20 miles (down from the Volt’s roughly 36 miles).  However in hybrid mode, the Ford delivers an impressive 47 mpg combined city/highway mileage, way up from the Volt’s 37 mpg.  The car is also reasonably priced at $33,745 before a $3750 tax rebate.

The C-MAX Energi might not be as aesthetic as the Volt nor as symbolic, but it is a very practical design for a family of my size.  Furthermore since my daily commute is only 6 miles round trip (it used to be 60 when I bought the Volt)  I will still rarely use any gas.

I am grateful to GM for launching the plugin revolution, and I have enjoyed my two years of Volt driving.  Change however is an inevitable fact of life.

After all the Volt’s greenlighting GM CEO Rick Wagoner is long gone,  vehicle line executive Frank Weber is at BMW, vehicle line director Tony Posawatz is CEO of Fisker, and Volt spokesperson Rob Peterson is gone from the Volt team.  And so it is that the Volts number one fan, and founder of GM-Volt.com has no choice but to trade in his car.

Stay tuned here as I report my C-MAX Energi delivery, which I hope will be one of the first in the nation.

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72 responses to "Why I’m Trading in My Chevy Volt for a Ford C-MAX Energi"

  1. Airton says:

    Good Luck to you Lyle! I think you’re making a wise choice for your family.
    on December 15th I will have 1 year left on my Volt’s lease and we are starting to “shop” for our next car. We have one child and the Volt worked out just right for us, our second car is the BMW ActiveE so our goal is to drive electric as much as possible but one of the vehicles will have to include a range extender (burn gas ok I have to say it!) for now.

    I am glad that we at least now have a choice in choosing our next plug in car.

  2. Brian says:

    My reason for waiting for a C-Max over buying a Volt:

    Burns Less Gas.

    No, really. I drive a Leaf which covers all of the local driving. The C-Max will almost never be driven on a trip between 20 miles and 80 miles. My family lives far away (250 miles), and I visit about once a month. The C-Max should not be overlooked or downplayed. It is another option that is filling in a gap between efficient local run-abouts and efficient long-distance family movers.

    Also, a couple of minor corrections on the C-Max – it has a 7.5kWh battery, not 6.6kWh, and the gas mileage quoted is from the Hybrid, not the Energi. The Energi’s mileage is not released yet, as far as I know, and will likely be slightly lower.

    Good luck with your C-Max – I hope you post a review of it here once you’ve gotten the feel of the car.

    1. Lyle Dennis says:

      Changed to 7.5, thanks for noticing =) I will report real-world mpg once I get the car.

    2. Dave R says:

      “The Energi’s mileage is not released yet, as far as I know, and will likely be slightly lower.”

      Wonder why you think the fuel economy will be lower on the Energi compared to the Hybrid. At least if you compare the Prius to the plug-in version, it’s basically the same (the plug-in is actually very slightly better on the EPA test).

      You might see a slight hit on the city cycle due to the extra 250lbs of battery, but that’s like driving with an extra passenger or two which doesn’t normally affect fuel economy to any significant degree except on a very light vehicle.

    3. Herm says:

      early private reports on the hybrid dont come up to the EPA estimates.. you guys might be disappointed

  3. ClarksonCote says:

    Hey Lyle, we need you to get in touch with someone left at GM, to get the exclusive scoop on whether or not they’re working on a Voltec SUV. It pains me that they were so ahead of everyone else with the Volt, and now it seems they’ve stalled with additional offerings.

    1. Brian says:

      And if they could offer a Voltec with 7 seats, they would hit a completely new market for plug-ins…

      1. ClarksonCote says:

        Yes, and a bicycle rack, and 6 wheel drive, and 900 mile range electric… or they can just aim for the standard seating and mass market appeal for now ;)

        (Side Note: I know Brian personally, it’s common place for us to harass each other!)

        1. Brian says:

          6 wheel drive? Now we’re talking! Take that, Syracuse winters!

          Unless you’re including the two wheels of that bike. That might night help all that much.

          If we could just make it fly, it wouldn’t need any wheel drive.

          But on a serious note, a 7 seater would have mass market appeal. In my neighborhood, every fourth house has one in the driveway.

          1. ClarksonCote says:

            25% of houses “might night” be enough for mass market appeal. :)

            1. Brian says:

              Typo aside, if 25% of the market isn’t mass market, the current Volt has zero hope of becoming mass market. You don’t have to have majority of the market to be mass market. Traditional (non-plug-in) hybrids hover around 3% of the total market. Yet few would argue that the Prius is mass market.

    2. Lyle Dennis says:

      Not sure if they will give me any details on “future product plans” especially if it could disrupt fragile Volt sales.

      1. ClarksonCote says:

        Yeah, I understand, but had to ask/jab anyway. :) Sure would be nice to see their Voltec line increase.

        Volts aside, congrats on the new purchase! It’ll be nice to hear your opinion on it. The estimated fuel efficiency is awfully impressive, and makes up for the less-than-Volt electric range.

  4. Mark H says:

    I am looking forward to the Ford C-Max. As a more direct competitor to the Toyota Prius, both the Prius and the C-Max are great designs and will bring even more buying opportunities to the EV market.

    Lyle stated the obvious first. If four seats are not enough the Prius plug in/C-Max EREVs are better solutions.

    Brian also stated in an earlier discussion how well a 20 mile EREV works with a two electric car family with the other being a pure electric BEV. Makes perfect sense and I couldn’t agree more.

    For those out there looking primarily for one electric car the 40 mile EREVs like the Volt as well as others on the way are still excellent choices. For myself, I drive a truck 2000-4000 miles per year. The bulk of my mileage happens on a Chevy Volt with a family of three. As 2013-2014 are big years for EVs entering the market, it is important to match the right car to your personal/family driving needs.
    http://insideevs.com/can-an-ev-go-where-i-go/

  5. Schmeltz says:

    It sounds like a wise decision for your family of 5 Lyle. Having 2 children of my own as a family of 4, I even think the Volt is a bit too small to encompass the paraphenalia that we haul along. I like the C-Max Energi but I really like the look of the upcoming Fusion Energi as well. As you said, it’s great to have choices!

    Here’s to hoping the next gen Volt is a bit larger and satisfactorly holds 5 people. Maybe then people like us with small families can find more practicality in these plug-ins.

  6. bitguru says:

    I too am considering trading one of my Volts for a C-MAX Energi. I’m not in a hurry to do so, though, so I will wait for reports from Lyle and others before making my decision. I need the fifth seat occasionally, most recently last weekend, but it’s not a huge deal. (Last weekend we borrowed a minivan for a couple hours. I am disappointed that Ford decided to bring the smaller C-MAX to the states, instead of the 7-passenger more van-like version.)
    I was a Volt early adopter, which had its moments, but had I known that fob-proximity keyless entry would be available less than a year later, I probably would have waited (for at least one of them).

    1. vdiv says:

      the smaller C-MAX ?!?

      The C-not so MAX? or the C-MINI-MAX ? :)

  7. Jim Fallston Md. says:

    Hello Lyle, Why not trade in the Leaf for the C-Max and keep the Volt. It seems like the obvious alternative to me. Just saying.

    1. Lyle Dennis says:

      Not really. We can all do our weekend family drives in the Leaf – wecannot in the Volt and with the Leaf we never use any gas. The C-Max will still use gas.

      1. Jeff says:

        Lyle,
        I see you are keeping the Leaf. Not sure where you live, but does the battery degradation issues reported by some Leaf users in Arizona and Texas concern you? I was under the impression that Nissan had stated this was normal for driving over the average Leaf user amount of 7500 miles a year. Considering your wife’s high in town mileage, curious about your thoughts.

        http://www.technologyreview.com/view/429330/dont-drive-your-nissan-leaf-too-much/

        Thanks
        Jeff

        1. Lyle Dennis says:

          No concern. Like I say our trips are short and frequent – usually no more that 40 miles round. We have a three year lease so plan to return the car at that time. Wont affect us.

        2. Herm says:

          “I was under the impression that Nissan had stated this was normal for driving over the average Leaf user amount of 7500 miles a year”

          Thats not quite what Perry (Nissan) said … he said that the average driver in Arizona drives 7500 miles and they seem to be doing ok.. still there are severe problems with AZ temperatures and Perry is not proud (IMO) of that statement.

  8. Bonaire says:

    Why not wait it out for the next round of GM Voltec?

    The Energi has promise but I will only buy one if it’s made in the USA. The C-Max’s are made in Mexico.

    1. Bonaire says:

      By the way – drive the C-Max Hybrid around. It’s actually quite small. Put all three kids in the back and go 20 miles in it and see if you might need something a little larger. Hopefully, we will see some EREV Tahoe-sized vehicles in the next 3-4 years.for families.

      1. Brian says:

        EREV Tahoe? Boy, that would be cool. The 2013 Tahoe seats up to 9!

        1. Bonaire says:

          I’d shoot for the Tahoe and then if they can make a Volt and a Tahoe then they can make CUV-sized stuff like Electriox’s (Voltec Equinox). I do like the MPV-5 styled concept vehicle but there will be quite a few mini-van families who could use at least mini-van if not Tahoe sized EREVs. Imagine moving from a 14-16mpg unit to something offering numbers like 80% of the Volt (ie 80MPGe).

      2. Raymondjram says:

        The Tahoe is too big for most families, including Lyle’s. The Equinox is a better size for five. GM has over one hundred Fuel Cell powered 2008 Chevy Equinox running, so the equinox already has an electric powertrain design. Just remove the hydrogen tanks. put in a bigger battery and replace the hydrogen fuel cell with one that can run on room-temperature fuels. Then you have a EREV Equinox.

        1. Schmeltz says:

          Bingo Raymond! Lets hope GM listens to this great suggestion.

      3. kdawg says:

        The Ford Focus EV, C-Max Hybrid, Fusion Hybrid, Fusion Energi, and C-Max Energi are all built at MAP (Ford Michigan Assembly plant in Warren MI). The batteries are LG Chem, but I don’t know if they will coming out of Holland Michigan or not.

        1. kdawg says:

          Batteries for the Focus EV that is. Panasonic for the Energi’s and Hybrids.

        2. roleme says:

          You are partly right, the C-max Hybrid and Energi, Focus, Focus Electric and Escape and Escape Hybrid are built at Michigan Assembly. This plant is in Wayne, Michigan, not Warren, Michigan. The Old Fusion was built in Mexico and some 2013′s still will be. The new Fusion and Fusion Hybrid are built in Michigan at Flat Rock Assembly. This plant was originally a Ford Plant and then became a joint venture with Mazda building Mazda 6 and Ford Mustang. Production of the Mazda 6 in Flat Rock just ended. This plant now builds just Fusions and Mustangs.

    2. MMcI says:

      No, the C-MAX is made in Michigan, not Mexico.

  9. vdiv says:

    Why not consider a Model S? Once exposed to plug-in vehicles, it seems more natural to seek vehicles with greater AER rather than smaller.

    1. Lyle Dennis says:

      Can’t do a round trip 250 mile beach vacation in the Model S, plus its double the cost for a big battery version.

      1. GSP says:

        Lyle,

        Sorry to see you need to sell you Volt. I enjoyed your articles on gm-volt.com every day for years, and I an thoughly enjoying driving my Volt for the past 18 months.

        An 85 kWh, 265 EPA mile, Model S might be able to do your 250-mile beach vacation using 30A J1772 public chargers, as long as you spend the night at your destination. Of course, the logistics will be much easier with an EREV, but the Model S would be more fun.

        GSP

  10. Rashiid Amul says:

    Thanks Lyle. The Ford seems perfect for me as well.

  11. bitguru says:

    Lyle, I’m curious. Will you be literally “trading in” your Volt to the Ford dealer as the headline suggests?

    I’m wondering what’s the best way to do this. Will I do better dollar-wise selling the Volt by owner on craigslist?? I’m not sure how the options weigh out.

    1. Lyle Dennis says:

      Its a good question. I hadnt given it much thought. I figured I would trade it into the dealer, but I just mentioned it is for sale in the GM-Volt forum thread on this story. We’ll see what happens.

  12. WopOnTour says:

    Hey Lyle
    Very sorry to hear the Volt no longer meets your needs due to your growing family. Hopefully sometime in the future, there will be a Voltec or pure EV GM product that does so we can have you back. It has been a pleasure working with you over the past5 years.
    WOT

    1. Lyle Dennis says:

      Thanks WOT. I certainly plan to get a GM vehicle again on the next round – well see what comes down the road!

  13. Anthony says:

    As a single guy, I don’t have Lyle’s problem with needing 5 seats, but it is sad to see Volt Fan #1 trade his in.

    I’m interested to see how the C-Max Energi works for you though. I think more affordable plug-ins are the way to market acceptance.

  14. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

    Hmm. It think it’s a bit sad that one incident where a rental company screwed up would force you into a different car.

    Look before you leap. Give a good test of the C-Max Energi before you buy. The battery significantly diminishes the cargo space and if it’s like the C-Max Hybrid the CS mileage might be disappointingly lower than the rated 47.

    So unless the extra range on the battery or Made In The USA* makes all the difference I’d suggest trying out the Prius Plug-in to figure out which one will minimize your gas consumption.

    * @bonaire: it’s the Fusion that’s made in Mexico, not the C-Max. Ford also uses LG batteries made in Michigan, and as with the Volt the cells will soon be made there too. The new hybrid drivetrain components are also USA-made, although I don’t know from where all the origional parts come.

    1. Lyle Dennis says:

      Good points – its close but I prefer the Ford’s bigger battery

    2. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      @bonaire: Correction. The CMax engine is manufactured in Mexico.

      CMax specs: http://media.ford.com/images/10031/2013_CMAX_Specs.pdf

    3. backstroke says:

      C-Max and Fusion batteries are from Panasonic, or what was Sanyo before the merger. LG Chem supplies only the Focus Li-ion battery.

    4. Bonaire says:

      @Its: Then they have to train their demo guys better. At the Plug-in Day in Maryland, Ford sent out a C-Max Hybrid to show-off and offer test drives. The guy from Ford told me and our passenger that the C-Max Hybrid will be made in Mexico. he may be wrong – but since he represents the company, we’ll have to watch it closely.

  15. Marc Lee says:

    I have to agree with Bonaire, the cargo area on the CMAX is quite small. I drove to the DC auto show just to see that, and was very disappointed. Interestingly, the hatch was locked, and the attendant said “I can not open it.”

    Ditto for the cargo area on the Focus Electric that I also bought to add a fifth seat, and of course to have a zero gas vehicle.

    The Fusion Energi would offer more space for seating and cargo space but of course it is not a hatchback so you perhaps lose the ability to haul the occasional large item. But the Fusion styling is just smoking hot.

    1. darrelld says:

      [IMG]http://i1097.photobucket.com/albums/g356/darrelld3/2013_ford_c-max_energi_06-984.jpg[/IMG]

      Picture of Energi cargo area.

        1. evnow says:

          Hmmm … first time seeing this photo. I always thought that Energi would have a flat cargo area when the back seats are folded. Not the case ?

  16. Jim I says:

    I have to say I am with “ItsNotAboutTheMoney” on this one.

    Trading out a car because of a single bad incident at a car rental agency seems a bit extreme to me.

    If your normal driving patterns are only 12 miles per day, then the amount of gas saved on the occasional 250 mile trip (Ford vs Volt) will be negligible. By my calculations, that would be 2 gallons saved round trip, using your electric and gasoline numbers listed above.

    And trading in Volt #8? Lyle, you should keep that car as it will be worth quite a bit someday, don’t you think? Also, I never kept or sold a car based on who is in charge at the company. But that is just me….. :)

    If it was me, I think I would trade in the Leaf for the Ford, and keep the Volt. The Ford is a nicer car, and your wife’s gas consumption would still be next to zero with 20 mile round trips. Then neither car has limited range.

    Do you both really need 5 passenger vehicles? It is usually just me in my Volt. In the year I have owned the car, I have only had 4 people in it once. But then, my kids are all grown and out of the house.

    Or is this just an excuse to get a new car????

    Whatever you decide, I wish you the best!

    Jim

    1. Stuart22 says:

      Jim, you laid it out so nicely. I’ve always respected with admiration Lyle and his Volt blogsite going back to the vaporware days to the present and so upon hearing this strange news I must admit my chagrin, for my instant reaction was a mix of betrayal of the shared dreams which is becoming a reality – note I said ‘becoming’ which is important because it’s a story which is still unfolding.

      But then the other side of me told myself that change is a part of life, so you might as well realize and accept it. So being the Libra that I am, I weighed both sides and ended up with no bad, but no good judgment on Lyle for his decision. Such is life, I’ve got my own to live.

      OK – yes I am disappointed Lyle is letting his wife win and keep the LEAF, a car which one day will indeed be valuable in an Edsel kind of way. History is and will make the Volt valuable in a Thunderbird kind of way, a car which proved to be greater than the brand name that ‘sponsored’ it, a car that was creative and influenced others that followed.

      The T-Bird is a lousy example, just the best I came up with at the moment written. The Volt is just so incomparable and risky and fabulous it’s pert near impossible to come up with a match. If only the Tucker had lasted…

  17. Frank Carter says:

    Wow Lyle, will you contact me on facebook or email about buying your car. I have a leased 2012. It would go to a good home, and I would love to own #8 and the car that was owned by you!!!

    http://www.facebook.com/frank.c.carter

    1. Mike-o-Matic says:

      Indeed, the low VIN and ownership history make this car worth a lot more, IMHO. Wish I needed a second Volt (I’m driving a 2012 right now).

      Lyle you should definitely consider an alternative means of selling your Volt. Perhaps an online auction with a moderately high reserve?

  18. James says:

    It is a sad day when “Mr. Volt” goes Ford. If the car, most of it’s components and batteries are made in USA – it’s still a good day.

    Lyle, it just goes to show that all of us beating on GM’s door to expand Voltec has thus far landed on deaf ears. It must all revolve around cost, but ELR is not going to break any sales records. I’ve become weary asking for MPV5 and even wondering why the Orlando platform sells literally everywhere BUT the USA… Truly, GM has had the lead in technology and as I’ve feared, they will see their lead slip away as others design cars with plugs and possibly more desirable MSRPs. The CUV space is the hottest sales area besides fullsized trucks these days – you’d think the boys at GM would have designed accordingly – a higher floor equalling three-across seating.

    7.5 kwh is a dinky battery, no doubt – but packaging is always a concern as well as price. Ford really cut into it’s cargo area in FocusEV by not starting from scratch and placing a leaf or Tesla type pack as part of the frame or a pancake under the passenger seats. C-Max was not designed from scratch as a PHEV or BEV either, so a larger pack would cut into cargo space also.

    We’ll have to wait and see if Ford’s 47/47 hybrid numbers for their hybrids play out. Past times have shown Ford over states it’s numbers where Toyota’s number claims usually pan out or exceed in real world experience.

    Lyle, my only hope is that you don’t end up with 7 – 11 miles AER and 35 MPG. These are the numbers I expect, real world, for the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi. It’s tough to order before any real road tests are out there.

    1. Samuel H says:

      Ford has a liquid-cooled battery pack that will not suffer premature battery degradation due to temp. unlike the Leaf. Their packaging is not ideal which does decrease cargo space. Tesla is top of the line patented equipment. They have no electric competition, yet.

  19. darrelld says:

    Congratulations on your new plugin. My wife and I are trading our Jetta TDI for a C-Max Hybrid or Energi.

    My primary concern for owning the Energi are the air cooled batteries and living in Texas. Granted the energy and thermal density will be less with the Energi vs Leaf but I haven’t seen any data from Ford about any hot climate testing.

    Any thoughts?

  20. evnow says:

    So, I & Lyle could have the same 2 cars. Difficult to believe !

    Ofcourse, my reason for not getting Volt (but hoping to get Energi) is that my wife wants a high seating car.

  21. GeorgeS says:

    shoot, the one day I am on a motocycle trip and no internet this gets posted and I miss it.
    so I will comment on Jeff’s article today.

  22. Anton Wahlman says:

    When will you take delivery of your Ford C-Max Energi? December? November? January?

  23. Richard Joash Tan says:

    I read your story Lyle, I just wanted to buy a new 2013 Volt instead of the one you traded in. I just wish that the Volt would be available in the Philippines.

  24. Ira Watson says:

    Dear Dr. Dennis,
    I want to thank you so much for all the hard work you put into the GM-Volt website. I read it religiously every day, and even still do to this day. I was number 51 in the country to sign-up on your waiting list. Through it all I never thought I would really own the car, but I picked up a low-mileage used one at a very good price. Regardless of your families’ needs that drive your decisions, thanks for sharing the love of this car and this technology with me and all the others who read your work daily. You have helped in an enormous way to bring these vehicles to market by feeding the curiosity of those of us that share your passions for EV (Erev) technology. Now, if I may, I’d like to kid you a little regarding your decision. I hope you and your wife are taking the necessary precautions to ensure that you won’t outgrow the Ford. I don’t know of any EREVs on the drawing board that seat 6 or 7.

    1. Samuel H says:

      Tesla Model X, Too bad its going to be $60,000-$100,000 dollars.

  25. Kyle says:

    Have you considered the Ford Fusion Energi (plug-in) that will get the same milage for the same price, but I believe is a bigger car with a trunk?

  26. Koz says:

    Just a suggestion. Keep the Volt and buy a used Minivan for the family trips. The Ford looks to be pretty cramped for 5 on long trips and 3 of your 5 are growing rapidly.

  27. Koz says:

    No matter what, your tremendous contributions are greatly appreciated.

  28. bitguru says:

    “Ford’s October sales of 144 C-Max Energi hatchbacks, plus another 118 Ford Focus Electric battery-electric cars…”

  29. Lonny says:

    One commentator just asked about the air cooled battery. I was told by a ford representative today that the energi battery is liquid cooled. But that isn’t what ford’s published specs say. Still, this was a Dearborn representative who told me that. Anyone know which is right?

  30. Concord says:

    Gotta ask … what country do you live in where it’s legal to have a 6 yr old sitting on someones lap? Beyond safety comprehension and shows abhorrent lack of caring for the life of a child. I call BS as fast as a marketers wet dream.

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  32. Rick Dickens says:

    Good article. I’m in the same situation. I have the 65th Volt off the production line but the lease ends this coming December. I can’t go back to a gas-only vehicle, but I need something just a little bigger. I was really hoping that sometime during the 3-year lease, Chevy would release the Crossvolt, or somebody else would come out with something a little bigger, with an extended range EV platform. If that Volvo made it here and wasn’t $75K, it’d be winner winner chicken dinner…

    MC

  33. Jeffrey R says:

    I love my Cmax Energi. At least you got to enjoy her before you let go.Now you get to enjoy them both! peace