The Case For The 20-Mile PHEV

4 years ago by David Murray 83

Like The Fusion Energi, The C-Max Energi Also Has A 21 Mile All-Electric Range

Like The Fusion Energi, The C-Max Energi Also Has A 21 Mile All-Electric Range

I’ve been somewhat fascinated by the Ford Energi products since they came out. I haven’t had a chance to drive one yet, but I’ve seen a few on the roads and at charging stations. Everyone here probably knows what they are. Just to recap, they are basically souped up hybrids with plug-in capability and an all electric range of around 21 miles.

2014 Chevrolet Volt Features 38 Miles Of Electric Range

2014 Chevrolet Volt Features 38 Miles Of Electric Range

A lot of people balk at such a low range. In fact, one of the most commonly requested features on the Chevy Volt forum is for more all-electric range.

Driving a Volt myself, I certainly wouldn’t mind more range either. However, I don’t really need it. In fact, with my 10-mile daily round-trip commute, one of the Energi models could easily provide me with an all-electric driving experience and still leave some extra range for small side trips during lunch or after work. In most cases I could fully recharge about an hour after getting home on my 240V setup. Then I’d be ready for some more all-electric driving in the evening. I can’t be alone. There must be millions of people with commutes like mine.

Lets talk about some of the advantages of a 20 mile PHEV:

  • 2013 Ford Fusion Gets A Charge

    2013 Ford Fusion Gets A Charge

    The battery charges faster. Well, not really. I tend to look at battery charging as a measure of miles-per-hour. I don’t care about full-recharge time because it is very rare that I’m charging a fully depleted battery. On a 240 volt station, the Energi models charge at about the same rate as a Volt, about 10 miles for every hour. However, the general population seems obsessed with charging times, for some reason. And to be able to say it charges in 2 hours is a great marketing gimmick.

  • Battery pack should be half the cost of a Chevy Volt and much less than half the cost of a pure electric vehicle. Being that the battery is the biggest expense of a setup like this, that can significantly lower the cost of the vehicle compared to more capable plug-ins.
  • Because the battery is small (compared to a more capable EV) it should be possible to retrofit that battery into just about any car body. Obviously under the floor would be ideal, but even the cargo area can work. That’s a big cost savings for manufacture.
  • The drivetrain can be identical to any other 2-motor hybrid system, without much of any change. Again, another big cost savings for manufacture.
  • Despite anemic acceleration performance in EV mode, full hybrid mode can actually outperform other more capable PHEV and full electric vehicles.
  • Less risk for both the manufacturer and the consumer. The manufacturer has to invest less money to develop the car, since it is based on existing designs. So if it doesn’t sell, the loss is much smaller. Also the warranty should be less risky since most of the car will already be tried and true. As for the consumer, they pay a smaller premium over a regular hybrid, thus lowering their financial risk and almost ensures eventual payback.
  • People who are looking for financial payback but have short commutes have a hard time justifying the cost of a Chevy Volt or all electric car if their commute is 20 miles or less anyway. After all, they won’t use much gas with such a short commute no matter what kind of car they drive.
Ford Sells About 500 Fusion Energis Per Month.  Good, But Not Great

Ford Sells About 500 Fusion Energis Per Month. Good, But Not Great

So, why aren’t they selling better? Ford currently sells roughly 500 units per month on the C-Max and Fusion Energi models (roughly 1,000 combined between the two models.) By comparison, GM sells roughly 2,000 Volts per month on average. Heck, that number may even double with the recent price cut. I think there are many reasons for this, and some solutions.

  • The C-Max Hybrid Far Outsells The Plug-In Energi Version Now...But Maybe Not Forever

    The C-Max Hybrid Far Outsells The Plug-In Energi Version Now…But Maybe Not Forever

    The tax credit structure is one issue. Since the Energi models qualify for a $3,750 tax credit and the Volt qualifies for a $7,500 credit, in most cases you can drive away in a Volt for about the same price as a C-Max Energi. If leasing, you will probably get a lower payment on a Volt due to the structure of the leases and how the federal tax credit works. This reason, more than anything else, is why I have a Volt in my garage and not a C-max Energi. However, this will change when the tax credits go away.

  • Lack of manufacturing capacity. Some sources have said that Ford simply doesn’t have any more capacity in their Michigan plant to produce more of them because the factory is already pumping out so many gasoline cars.
  • The price tag is another problem, sort of. They seem to be selling plenty of C-Max hybrids with a base price of $25,200. But not so many C-Max Energi models at 32,950. However, if you calculate in the tax credit of $3,750 that brings the energi model down to $29,200. That already puts it in the running with a better equipped C-Max and since the Energi model is pretty well equipped, that actually makes the price about the same. But I’ve heard Ford is secretly giving up to $5,000 discounts on these cars, which actually means you could get an Energi for $24,200. So you could theoretically buy an C-Max Energi for less money than a base-model C-max and get more equipment too! I think a lot of people just get sticker shock when they see the MSRP and just don’t know any better.
  • As for the Fusion Energi, that’s a different story. A base Fusion is $21,900. But A Fusion Energi is $38,700. Even with the tax credit and $5,000 discount the price tag is still $29,950. That’s a hard number for a lot of people to swallow. And while the Fusion hybrid is $27,200, people will probably make the comparison to the gasoline-only version when running their numbers on fuel savings. The solution to this problem, besides lowering the price some, is to get people to realize that driving on electric is fun and making less trips to the gas station not only saves money but is convenient.
  • The last, but definitely not the least problem, is the battery packs being crammed into the cargo area. The C-Max Energi has virtually no cargo area at all. This is a deal breaker for a lot of people. This problem could easily be solved by re-engineering the body of the car to accommodate the battery pack underneath the car. However, this sort of defeats one of the advantages mentioned above, which is being able to use existing car designs. My hope is that the next generation of these vehicles will solve the issue. I also expect that battery sizes will shrink over time, which will also partially solve this problem.

So to summarize. I believe the 20-mile PHEV can be a very viable product in the future, mostly because the entry barriers are lowered for both the consumer and the manufacturer. With tax credits gone, the price will be much more competitive than more capable cars. In fact, I’m going to make a prediction that within 10 years this concept may replace the traditional hybrid vehicle completely due to a reduction in battery cost and size

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83 responses to "The Case For The 20-Mile PHEV"

  1. I agree David, especially with the nice last paragraph summary. I think these low AER PHEV’s will allow people to affordably get their first taste of a plug-in vehicle. That, in many cases, will lead to their next car being fully electric 4-6 years down the road when battery costs have come down a bit and there is more competition driving prices down on all the EV’s.

    I do believe before we transition to full electrics the PHEV will rule for a decade or so. This is going to be a slow evolution to battery electric cars not a quick revolution IMHO.

  2. Ted Fredrick says:

    I like Davids comment that he plans a Tesa in the future… Don’t we ll plan for a Tesla in out future?

  3. Aaron says:

    Ford’s Focus and C-Max (especially the PHEV version) use a LOT of cargo room for the batteries. I don’t find that to be an acceptable trade off.

    My i-MiEV was originally a gas-powered, 660cc (!) engined Kei car, but they did an outstanding job retrofitting it with batteries. Absolutely none of its cargo or passenger space is used. I can fold the rear seats down completely flat. There is no trade off. In fact, the electric version of this car is significantly faster and better than the gas model.

    The Honda Fit EV does a decent job of retrofitting the car with batteries. It loses the “magic seats” that are a big selling point to the gas-powered Fit, but overall, the car is mostly unchanged (albeit a bit taller).

    The Focus EV, on the other hand, takes up nearly 2/3rds of its storage space in the back for batteries. It’s silly even to have fold-down rear seats with this HUGE battery lump in the way. Most of the draw of hatchbacks is their versatility in carrying cargo. Losing most of the cargo carrying capacity makes this car a study in what not to do.

    The C-Max PHEV does the same thing, although since it’s a bigger car (on the same chassis as the FFE), the bump isn’t nearly as noticeable. Looking at the PHEV versus the hybrid versions and you can clearly tell how much space the batteries are taking.

    Why can’t Ford do what Mitsubishi and Honda are doing? Are they using larger, less-space efficient batteries?

    1. Ted Fredrick says:

      All about tradeoffs. I bought the Focus over the leaf because I liked the looks and use it for driving to work. I agree that the cargo space stinks but that only reas its head about twice a month and the good looks are there every day. My Dad bought the leaf and loves it but my Mom comments on my cars looks every time I go over there.

      1. Just_chris says:

        and that s it in a perfect nut shell, a car designed by the marketing team, I am still not sure why they don,t sell better. Must be a capcity problem.

    2. Vin says:

      “Ford’s Focus and C-Max (especially the PHEV version) use a LOT of cargo room for the batteries. I don’t find that to be an acceptable trade off.”

      Well, I find the substandard acceleration and range of the MiEV to be an unacceptable tradeoff for not intruding into cargo space.

      But let’s look at the numbers… Per edmunds,com, Your MiEV has 13.5 cu ft behind the rear seats. The Focus Electric has 14.5 cu ft… which is more than the MiEV. So in the end, does it really matter how much cargo space the ICE versions have?

      Oh, and by the way, the Fit EV has 12.0 cu ft behind the rear seats (2.5 cu ft less than the Focus Electric), and the ICE Fit has 20.6 cu ft. That’s a 42% loss of volume in the Fit EV, compared to a 39% loss in the Focus Electric. Do you consider that an acceptable tradeoff? In any case, that’s less room behind the rear seats of the Fit EV than your MiEV and my Focus Electric.

      In any case, I think all three EVs have plenty of room back there for everyday chores. I’ve had no problems hauling three co-workers with all four of our brief cases/bags in the back, under the cargo cover. Fits lots of groceries back there too… most I’ve had back there so far are nine bags, and had plenty of room to spare, even with my brief case taking up space. Last week I was at full capacity under the cargo cover when I hauled fresh tacos, chips, and salsa for 30+ people back there… that took a lot more room than I expected, but it all fit perfectly. To me, all this concern over cargo space in an EV is somewhat overblown.

      1. GSP says:

        Note that, like any proper EV, the MiEV is QUICKER than the gasoline version (which has a 660 cc engine).


    3. Todd says:

      We purchased a Ford C Max Energi in Pittsburgh . The deal closer for us was the secret ford discount + factory incentive discount+dealer discount bringing the price down below the price base msrp of a regular c max. With the 3,700 federal tax credit plus 1,200 Pa state tax credit the true price we paid went way below the non plug in c max price and below the price of a no option base Prius.
      Basically what is being said here about a lack of cargo room is very misleading and inaccurate. The interior usable-useful cargo room in the ford c max energi is huge compared to all other plug in hybrids in this price class point blank. The floor area right behind the back seats is just raised a few inches to make room for a taller battery that’s about it. In order for you to loose to much space by this fact depends on weather or not you must carry around a full size gas barbecue grill or other very long tall objects and such. We comfortably fit in a mid size cooler and 2, 85 pound large dogs with just one of the back seats folded down leaving room for up to 4 passengers.
      The other big selling point for us was low 6.5 cent per kw power rate in Pittsburgh and a 21 mile daily crosstown commute permitting 850 to 950 miles per 12 gal tankful.

  4. vdiv says:

    Another couple of reasons why the Ford 20-mile PHEVs are not so good:
    — misleading the public on the hybrid mode fuel efficiency
    — those 20 miles AER in the winter turn into less than 10 miles with the need for heat
    — reduced performance when using EV mode
    — controversial styling. Some people die by the Fusion, yet I find both the exterior and interior of the Fusion and C-MAX too busy and too ugly.

    I am going to draw a squiggly line in the sand and define vehicles as electric only when their electric motor is more powerful and used for primary mechanical propulsion in all modes, with the option of occasional assistance from an ICE. Unfortunately that is not the case with the Energi drivetrain.

    1. Todd says:

      Our Ford C Max Energi is getting 130 MPGe combined overall in doing a 22 mile daily commute and charging up once a day in winter. Its a 10 mile hwy and 12 mile city commute up and down steep hills. As for hwy mileage without charging the battery at all its getting 43 mpg doing 65-70.
      That goes down to about 30 mpg if you go 75-85 mph. So far this is all going up and down steep grades and a lot of curvy hwy ‘s.

      Have not tested yet but guessing the 85-90 mph trip mileage to be in mid to upper 20’s range.
      No real lack of power around town its very peppy at speeds below 55.

  5. Alaa says:

    Is the Tesla SAFEr than this car?

    1. vdiv says:

      Not to yer wallet it is not πŸ˜‰

      1. Alaa says:

        How much is ones life worth to you?

        1. vdiv says:

          Not much… 7 billion others and rapidly rising πŸ˜‰

    2. ModernMarvelFan says:

      Tesla Model S is safer than most cars….

      M1 tanks is also safer than most cars.

      A school Bus is also safer than Tesla. but I won’t drive a school bus to work, especially if it is a “short bus”….

  6. Josh says:

    Great article David!

    I would add one negative to the Ford Style PHEV: driving experience. Going from my LEAF to my wife’s SUV with start/stop, I constantly get annoyed by the ICE transitions. I have talked to Volt owners that get annoyed when the ICE comes on, after they get used to EV mode. That surprised me as GM has the most seamless transition to date.

    I have not driven either Energi product, so I can’t comment from experience. Any EV drivers driven an Energi for an extended period that can comment? Can anyone ping Lyle Dennis?

    1. KeiJidosha says:

      We have a C-Max Energi and Fit EV. You are correct that the pure EV driving experience is much better. But the C-Max takes care of our not infrequent 300+ mile trips, yet is all electric for weekly commute and errands. Cargo full-O-battery is good for Ford, but bad for utility. We would probably have bought the Chevy MPV5 if produced, or the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV if not delayed. C-Max was the best available option for our needs, but a trade-off not all will make.

      1. Josh says:

        Thanks for the comments.

        I wish the Outlander had been to market quicker as well. We just replaced my wife’s CUV this spring (couldn’t wait any longer). I am hoping GM will have the MPV5 out in 3 – 5 years when we start looking for the next replacement.

    2. Puzzlegal says:

      I drive the C-Max Energi. It looks like there’s no cargo space, and that turned me off, but my husband really wanted a plug in vehicle, so we got it anyway. It turns out that because the car is so tall, it has plenty of cargo space for most purposes. It is enough for a full load of groceries, or for luggage for two for a week (or luggage for three if you put down one of the seats, leaving you room for 3 people and their gear.) It can hold a bicycle if you pop off the wheels.

      I’m actually thrilled with how well it drives. The Prius is so soggy, but this is a fun car. I still miss my old Civic (may it rest in peace) and especially miss the civic’s turning radius, but I don’t mind the ICE transitions at all — mostly it stays in electric mode until the battery runs down, except you can get an extra boost as you accelerate onto the interstate.

      As for the range, that’s worked out very well. The all-electric range is enough for all of our regular commuting and shopping needs, and the gas tank means the car is also useful (and relatively efficient) for the odd 200 mile drive to get away for a weekend.

      I’m surprised it isn’t selling better. It is kinda ugly, and the storage looks worse than it is, and I suppose people are always nervous to try new things. Still, it’s a very nice car.

  7. GeorgeS says:

    Good article David. Interesting bio also.

    The deeper we get into this the more I think that Tesla’s approach is the way to go. Heck for a while I thought maybe the Volt’s battery was too big but now it seems the other way around. These hybrid plug ins just don’t cut it in my book. As a Volt owner I can say I want MORE AER. I want MORE acceleration. In order to do this you need less weight. The quickest and easiest way to get less weight is to shit can the range extender.

    Believe it or not, If I could, I would trade my Volt for a Spark EV. Yes I might be disappointed but one guy on the forum has both a Volt and a Spark and he actually likes the Spark BETTER.

    1. Spec says:

      Yeah, once it get used to pure electric drive it is annoying to drive a gas car with that noise, uneven acceleration, stinky exhaust, etc. The Volt is definitely the better way to go for many since they need the long range. But if you have a reasonable commute and don’t do long trips regularly . . . go pure electric.

      1. Puzzlegal says:

        Unless you sometimes take long road trips. Then, going all-electric means you either need a second fuel-efficient vehicle, or you spend a ton on gas when you travel, or you travel VERY SLOWLY, and plan all your re-fueling in advance. Yeah, if you are an electric car fanatic, you might be willing to go for that last one, but for the typical consumer that’s a terrible trade-off. The gas tank and the range it provides means this can be your only small, efficient car.

    2. ModernMarvelFan says:

      Well, duh..

      SparkEv is faster than the Volt. It has more torque off the line. Everyone likes a better performing car….

  8. Spec says:

    With the current tax-credit you are better off with a Volt-style PHEV since the tax-credit pretty much pays for the battery. When that credit goes away, 20 miles PHEVs will make more sense.

    1. Anthony says:

      Exactly. The tax credit is about $470 per kWh. If the total price (cell + pack + integration) of the marginal kWh is below this price, then it makes sense to make the battery bigger.

      My hope is that the tax credit hangs around long enough that packs that provide 20 miles AER are small enough and cheap enough to integrate into cars the way hybrid battery packs are now. I don’t know if it’ll happen in time – cramming 7.5kWh into something that size and weight would need a 5x improvement over the NiMH cells found in most regular hybrids.

      1. Spec says:

        Yup. At $470/KWH, the tax-credit pays for the battery so why not go with the full 16KWH. Someone should build a PHEV with a 16KWH battery and a very small ICE which could get about 55 miles electric range and then go to gasoline. It would get the full tax-credit, have a great electric range that would cover some 80% of daily driving, and a gas engine for the rest. That is the sweet spot.

        1. Lindsay Patten says:

          The i3 is pretty close to that.

  9. Tom A. says:

    Options are good, but mediocre designs (lost cargo space) and significant price premiums are not.

    If these things get people to experience electric drive, then great.

    My next car will be a Tesla.

  10. ClarksonCote says:

    I think a 20 mile Voltec PHEV as an SUV could do well, like the MPV5 concept using the Volt’s battery.

    Ford’s PHEV’s are nice, but they’re still a milder form of Voltec. I think a solution that lets you use the battery for the first 20 miles, regardless of speed/acceleration (like what the Volt offers), is really the way to go.


    1. Ocean Railroader says:

      I wish my truck had that ability to plug in with 20 miles of range in that it uses a gallon of gas for 15 miles of travel and I only drive it on short local eight to ten mile trips. You would at least be saving a gallon of gas a local trip.

    2. Guy A says:

      I too would like to see a Voltec CUV offered (as an option) with half the battery of the Volt. For the general public that makes the most sense, as most people do a significant amount of their commute cruising on freeways. Very few people drive more than 20 miles in stop and go or urban traffic, which is when the AER mode gives the most benefit.the majority. A smaller battery also means a lighter car, which means a smaller engine or better performance/economy from the same engine.

      More importantly, the smaller battery really cuts down the perceived hassle involved in buying a PEV, while also minimizing the MSRP sticker shock and being the most viable when subsidies expire. While the Volt rarely needs an L2 charger, a PHEV with a 20-mile battery would NEVER need one to get a full charge overnight. And as others have mentioned, using half the battery should allow five seats for the people who need it (I don’t), unlike the Volt. But you can’t do it the way Ford did and eat up all the cargo space. The most appropriate advertising slogan for the C-Max Energi? “The car that takes the ‘U’ out of CUV.”

    3. Puzzlegal says:

      ?? You can use the battery for the first 20 miles of driving the C-Max if you want. Even if you put it in “default” mode, that’s what it will do if you don’t need any strong acceleration. Pretty much the only time the gas engine kicks when I drive it it when I am on a highway, and mostly only to merge and accelerate on the highway at high speeds. If I’m just tootling around under 50mph, it stays all-electric whether I tell it to or not.

  11. Ocean Railroader says:

    This was the first plug in car I saw on the road. Oddly it and the plug in Prius are now in trouble with the fact that Chevy cut the price of the volt by $5000 dollars which puts the starting price of the volt a $1000 below this car starting price even before the larger tax break. On top of it and almost has double the range. And the builders of the volt seem fairly aggressive in that I was the one on this website who mentioned the $5000 dollar price cut as fairly aggressive and didn’t expect them to do that.

    The good news out of all of this is that if it has a smaller battery pack and the costs of batteries are falling all across the board then it might not be out of the question to drop the price of the C Max from the $32,000 before the tax break to $27,000 before the tax breaks they might have a good chance of gaining more market share from the Prius and other existing gas cars. Or they could be extremely aggressive and make the plug in feature standard on all of their C max hybrids which would over top the Prius and get thousands of new people used to electric cars.

    1. Spec says:

      The PiP has always been a bit silly since it has such a small battery when the government is providing money to cover the cost of a larger battery. But the Prius fans still buy it.

      1. Ocean Railroader says:

        I really think something like the PiP could easily be made into a standard feature on the main stream Prius in that most likely it using the existing batteries from the same Prius. In that there are several internet videos converting existing Prius into plug ins. So most likely most of the pieces are already inside the existing Prius models to make it a plug in.

  12. drpawansharma says:

    i do not agree with you, i think more AER, the merrier. in fact i think for pure BEVs – tesla way is the best, for plugin hybrids- earlier volt was the best but now BMW i3 is a better approach.

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      i3 REx can’t sustain in the long distance driving. It is REx is NOT designed for long hill climb. It doesn’t have mountain mode. That is why BMW provides you with a “free weekend loaner” for long trips…

  13. Dennis says:

    No comments on these cars with small batteries hogging chargers. We know that people can sometimes be inconsiderate, that combined with small batteries and a limited charging network is a problem in my book. I saw a Volt “using” our one local charger the other day, plugged in, not charging.

    1. David Murray says:

      What difference does it make whether it is a car with a small battery hogging the charger or a Tesla hogging the charger. It’s rude to be there once you are done recharging, doesn’t matter what size your battery is.

      1. Dennis says:

        Yes, it’s rude either way. If they have a small battery and are trying to go all electric and feel they have to charge at every opportunity that’s all the more chance of them hogging a charger.

        1. ModernMarvelFan says:

          I know plenty of Tesla model S who “hoggs” public chargers. They don’t need the range. But since it is free, they are “hogging” it up forever….

          1. Bryan Whitton says:

            When I am at my favorite free charger and I see a car fully charged I have no qualms disconnecting them and charging my car. I won’t touch a car that is actively charging but a charged car too bad.

            1. kdawg says:

              My car’s alarm will go off if you disconnect the charger.
              Just sayin..

              1. VoltOwner says:

                kdawg, it doesn’t have to, mine is permanently disabled by the dealer, but even before that I could turn it off by locking the doors with the metal key.

            2. MMcI says:

              Unfortunately it’s not always easy to tell when a car is fully charged. For some the light is hard to see (I’m looking at you Honda PHEV), and for others the charging light is selectable and may be off (such as the Focus Electric). Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean it’s done.

      2. Puzzlegal says:

        I plugged in my (small battery) car at the airport a few weeks ago. I wasn’t going to return for a couple of days, and thought about the problem of hogging the charger. But my choices were “hog the charger” or “don’t recharge”. It’s not like I could just pop back after a few hours to unplug. Nor could the Volt nor the Tesla I parked between. All of those cars were going to be sitting in the charging spot long after they were fully charged.

        So I took the spot, and I made an all-electric run to the airport and back.

        In the long run, the more people who want to charge, the more infrastructure for charging will be built. So you guys who need to charge should be glad that a bunch of other people are charging cars. Yes, we might be in the way from time to time, but there will be no supply without demand.

        (I have a friend with an all-electric car, and twice I’ve shown up at the convenient plug-in lot right before she did, and only one spot was left. I pulled out and gave it to her, of course. My alternative was spending $0.50 of gas to get home, and hers was to drive to the next-most-convenient lot where she would have to pay $5 to park and have a long walk to the event we were going to.)

    2. kdawg says:

      I have seen EV’s parked at charging spots and not even plugged in! Even worse I saw some standard Prius’s parked in charging spots.

      1. VoltOwner says:

        And I see Volts, Leafs and Teslas parked at the old AvCon and Small Paddle charging stations all the time, it’s impossible for them to charge, but they still sit there blocking the chargers.

  14. Carl says:

    Nice Article. You should go test drive a C-MAX energi just to see how it drives.

    I traded in a Ford Escape Hybrid (2007) for my C-MAX Energi (2013).

    I think the cost is not an issue. One of my pet peeves about cost comparisons, is that the PHEVs (with loaded options) are compared against a stripped down ICE version of the same model, or sometimes compared against a lower class of car all together. And then the claim is that you will not make up the cost of the battery in fuel cost savings for several years. Unfortunately, these claims are misleading since the cost of non-battery options like a Nav system are included in the cost of the battery addition.
    (I recouped the battery cost in 4 months.)

    In April of 2013, I did a comparison of the price I would have to pay for a 2013 Ford Escape, 2013 CMAX, and 2013 CMAX Energi. All SEL trim level with the same options (Nav, panoramic room, prem audio).
    The final price is the Ford X-plan price less the tax incentives (CA & Fed) and less any Ford discounts.
    Here’s the rundown:
    Ford Escape SEL 2013, Price: $29,475 (MSRP $33,150) Note: $2000 cash back included.
    Ford CMAX SEL Hybrid 2013, Price: $30,075 (MSRP $32,370) Note: $750 cash back included.
    Ford CMAX Energi SEL 2013, Price: $29,888 (MSRP $36955) Note: $1500 Ca rebate (CARB) and $3751 Fed tax credit included.

    I assume you could close to the x-plan pricing with good negotiating skills, so the comparisons should hold up.

    Now for the good:

    Range is fine for me, I get about 30-36 miles per charge. However, I live in Silicon valley and my commute is flat, meaning the only hills might be an overpass. Also, I rarely have to use the heat or the air. So yes, 30-36 miles is extremely ideal and not typical.
    Actually, I drive to and from work (12 mile round trip) and return with 65% of the battery charge left.

    ICE on/off–
    Rarely notice it at all. Unless I have a special guage up on the left side of the dashboard which tells me when the ICE is on or I’m in EV mode, it’s difficult to tell.

    Coming from the anemic acceleration of the Escape Hybrid, the acceleration is excellent by comparison. Only twice (in 4 months) have I ever hit the gas hard enough to kick the car out of EV only mode and into power mode (ICE & EV).

    Gasoline and Electricity usage–
    I drive about 1000 miles a month, and put in about 8 gallons/month. Occasionally have longer trips. This is a pretty significant savings over the Escape Hybrid at roughly 32-36 mpg. As for home electricity, PG&E lets you switch to a time-of-day usage plan if you own a PEV, which means my electricity bill has actually gone down overall, as my normal electric usage has been switched to time-of-day. Which means that the savings on normal usage is more than offsetting the additional cost of charging of the vehicle.

    I do have my chargepoint card, and occasionally use it, but it is not necessary because of the gas part. I do take advantage of free charge stations at the airports when I can, and the charge point stations at the theatre are $0.25/hour.

    But not all is good– These are my two complaints:

    1. Battery taking up cargo space. Yes, this was almost a deal breaker. It sucks, but I decided the other benefits outweighed the lack of trunk cargo space.
    Hockey bag has to go in back seat now, and my max capacity for hockey is now 2 people 2 bags, instead of 3 that I had with escape.

    2. Acceleration when battery is nearly depleted. Don’t run into it often, but it is definitely sluggish in this scenario where the battery and EV is not pulling it’s weight. I find on a long trip, I can switch to an EV later mode with a few percentages of the battery left, and it never gets into the depleted mode. But a pain to have to do things like that.

    3. MPG is not displayed in a straight forward manner. They lump in miles driven on pure electricity (from the wall) with the overall mpg. Conversely, the car keeps track of EV miles, but it counts the miles when the engine is off during hybrid mode as EV miles. This would be difficult to understand for the consumer who has poor algebra skills.
    However, I have tested out mpg in hybrid mode, by using the trip meters, once the stored energy is used up. Remarkably, it comes in at the low 40’s mpg which is near the rated 43 mpg for the car.

    In summary, I am happy that I got the car. And, yes, this is a stepping stone before I convert to BEV entirely. It’s only a matter of time.

    1. David Murray says:

      I would really like to test drive both the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi. However, I do not want to go to a dealership to do this where I’ll be hassled about buying one. if there were somebody around in the Dallas area that owns one and would take me for a drive, then that would be great!

      1. Josh says:

        Ditto for Houston.

      2. Carl says:

        Are salesmen really that bad?

        Tell him that you are an EV enthusiast and that you want to test drive the vehicle so you can be more informed when you talk about the benefits of the Energi.
        Also, get a few of his business cards so that you can “send your friends” his way if they are ever in the market for a PHEV.
        A good salesmen will gladly sow the seeds of future sales.

        A rude salesman… well, in that case, you are not obliged to feel bad when you tell him “no thanks” and walk away.

        1. David Murray says:

          It’s a two-problem scenario. First of all, I don’t want to waste a salesman’s time when I don’t intend to buy. Second of all, I don’t want the salesman trying to sell me the car, run my credit report, try to make me a deal, etc.

        2. Josh says:

          The other benefit of meeting an owner is you get a real prospective of using the car. One lap around the block from the dealership and you will have driven it as far as any salesman has.

    2. kdawg says:

      I didn’t know the Cmax Energi had that small of a trunk space. I’ve looked at it at the car shows, and sat in the car, but I guess until you need to put stuff in, it doesn’t sink in. I also play hockey and my bag & two sticks easily fits in my Volt cargo area. I could actually fit 2 hockey bags. You’re not a goalie by chance? πŸ™‚

  15. Joseph Bonham says:

    While there are many true points in the above article, I have the opposite view. We just leased a Ford Focus EV after looking at the C-Max, and traded in our Mazda5.

    1) The all electric has much more power and pick up than the gas engines I’ve driven, not less. It actually reminds me of the turbo I drove as a teenager. Which makes me wonder at the wisdom of purposfully making the EV mode in PHEVs so sluggish. It’s like saying, “Here’s this awesome motor, but don’t have any fun with it, and don’t enjoy it.”

    2) Virtually no maintance. While having both a gas engine and an electric motor gives versitility, you also get the negative costs of a gas engine. Other than tire rotations, our first maintenance is at 150K! No oil changes, no transmission gears to grind down. This alone explains why the automotive industry hesitates to embrace this model. Theoretically, in 10-15 years when it needs a new battery, I could install a better battery and have an essencially new car for $3K-$5K.

    3) If I can plug my EV at any standard outlet over night, and rapid charge in many locations, why have a gas engine as a back up at all? Especially since battery prices and capacities are only getting better. My wife and I took a one hour and forty minute trip to the Oregon Coast from Portland in our BEV, charged to full while we were at the beach in 4 hours, and then came home the same day. If I need to go further, I can rent a car the four times a year I need it.

    4) The roof rack we put on doesn’t reduce range substancially, and so we can go to Ikea 45 minutes away, slap large items on the roof and drive home with no problem. No extra space required.

    Overall, the EV is more enjoyable and cheaper than PHEV. Why mess with gas? Fear. Our friends have more range anxiety for us than we do. Driving an EV that’s purpose built as an EV is all it takes.

    1. David Murray says:

      I agree in principle. But right now it is really hard to convince the average Joe to give up a lifestyle he’s used to. With the PHEV it is a much easier sell. Once these people get used to the idea of plugging in every day, its likely their next car will be a full electric.

    2. Gary says:

      I’m sorry to take exception, but the Focus EV is not “an EV that’s purpose built”. If it were a purpose built EV, it wouldn’t have the battery shoe-horned anywhere Ford could fit it in to the already existing Focus ICE chassis.

    3. kdawg says:

      I feel the same way as you Joseph, but I need a 200 mile BEV for *me* to make the leap. Hopefully 2016 is the year.

  16. Spec says:

    Cargo area is not much of a problem. Yeah, they should design them better so they don’t eat up so much cargo room. But generally, people don’t need much cargo room and if you really need it for a trip then use a roof rack.

  17. Alaa says:

    These cars are a death trap compred to a Tesla.

    1. David Murray says:

      That’s quite a stretch. By that logic, 99% of vehicles on the road are deathtraps.

      1. Alaa says:

        100% of the cars in the 1930s were.

        1. ModernMarvelFan says:

          Compared to M1 tank, even Tesla model S is deathtrap…

          But compared to Tesla Model S, most cars are “affordable”. If you can’t afford it, then buying it is out of question…

          Other cars are only deathtrap if Tesla drivers are idiots. So, tell Tesla drivers to stop running into other cars or deathtraps…..

          1. Alaa says:

            I see your points. All I want to do is promot safty and yes Tesla. I agree it is expensive. Soon it will not be. I just think that F GM etc should do something like Tesla if not better.

  18. pjwood says:

    I think consumers are a ways from understanding PHEV fuel math. So, for me to say that batteries at half the Volt’s size make, well, less than half the economic sence would be stretching what is really behind the sales numbers.

    Economically, as folks of a given income but different 20 mile driving patterns go looking, the whole idea of having fuel-economy on the priority list just sinks. Throw a drivetrain premium on that and I think there’s a point where PHEV matters much less.

    Anyone have a link to the NHTSA study showing “80% of drivers going <40 a day"? That should help predict things. I'd be interested in the distribution's tighntness, at the median.

    1. kdawg says:

      I don’t have a link to a study but here’s a couple graphs I found a couple years ago (can’t remember where from πŸ™ )

      1. Priusmaniac says:

        I think your graph is for bicycles, or some other kind of vehicles, not cars. For instance I drive 75 miles 200 days a year and I see no place where it fit in even in the highest quarter.

      2. pjwood says:

        kdawg, I know you aren’t likely to read my thanks for this, but wanted to circle back over my continued search for this data, and recognize that it comes up in google searches. I’m sure it amounts to simply finding the correct link, but the top left graphical set does seem to match the “80% going <=40mi", if one eyeballs, then sums, the area below 50 miles.

        If I don't get something better, manually recreating this graph as one would show a fatter tail than Voltstats shows, for instance. The fourth, longest driving, quartile really hits near the 60 daily mile median. What this tells me, in conjunction with what cold climates do to range, is that a higher range EREV will in fact meet both a perceived and actual need.

        The marginal bennefit from paying for kwh's of storage is all about this distribution. Thanks, again.

  19. Pete D says:

    I just bought a Volt 3 weeks ago. I looked very seriously at the Fusion Energi. Good looking car, 5 seats instead of 4.

    But then I test drove the Volt and it was an easy decision, for the reasons mentioned in the article above.

    -$7500 Tax Credit versus half of that, PLUS $4K from the State of IL, so $11,500 versus $3750. Huge difference!
    -38 miles versus 21, also a huge difference. I took a trip that burned some gas, but in day-to-day use around home, I have yet to burn a drop of gas. (I don’t have a commute really, I work from home when I am not traveling, and when I travel I take a car service to the airport, so the Volt works GREAT for me, I will hardly ever burn gas.) The Fusion at 21 miles, I would be burning gas quite a bit weekly.

    Also the Fusion handled like your grandfather’s Buick, the suspension was so soft! The Volt on the other hand is very sporty (and I come from a history of owning BMWs, Audis and Porsches, I am very picky when it comes to handling and feel), corners and handles great. In Sport mode the Volt is actually pretty quick, great to be able to pop it into Sport and have some fun. Sport plus Low mode on the transmission makes for some fun spirited one-foot driving in the Volt!

    Agree that in the Volt, even more EV range would be great. After owning the Volt for a few weeks, a 21 mile EV for me is a show-stopper! Sorry, Ford, back to the drawing board you go. πŸ˜‰

    Also related to this topic, I don’t think the public in general understands the difference between Hybrids, Range Extended EV’s and pure EV’s. I know I didn’t, until the Tesla came out and caught my attention and I started researching. That is part of the problem IMO re the challenge with how car manufacturers make decisions and priority calls…

    1. Puzzlegal says:

      Which cars make economic sense is very sensitive to your regular driving patterns. Our regular daily driving is less than 20 miles, but we drive long distances with some frequency. So the C-Max, which meets our daily needs and is reasonably efficient for long-haul driving, is a good fit. If our regular daily driving was greater, the Volt would make more sense, despite the lower mileage on long-haul trips. But for our driving pattern, we use less total gas with the C-Max.

      The Prius has even better long-haul efficiency, but doesn’t have enough electric range to meet our regular daily needs. But if the commute was 4 miles instead of 8, it might have been a good choice.

  20. New Yorker says:

    Does the Fusion Energi come in AWD?

  21. kdawg says:

    ” in most cases you can drive away in a Volt for about the same price as a C-Max Energi”
    Actually much less.
    After tax credits:
    Volt = $27,495
    Cmax = $29,200

    and for comparison
    Fusion Energi = $34,950
    Prius Plugin = $29,500

    As battery prices continue to drop, 20 mile PHEV’s (and even less AER ones) will continue to make even less sense.

    BMW did at least one thing right with the i3, they focused more on the AER and less on the range extender. Smaller AER PHEV’s are going to require more robust RE’s.

    Like Dave, I too have a shorter commute, ~25 miles RT. I couldn’t quite make it in a 20 mile PHEV, but I also live in a cold winter state, Michigan. This means the AER’s can drop by 1/2 in the winter, reducing my Volt’s AER to 24 miles. If I had a 20-mile PHEV, in the winter it would only be 10 or 12 miles and I would be using a lot more gas. Also talking about driving habits, on weekends I regularly make trips over 40 miles. This causes me to use some gas in my Volt. Automakers need to increase the AER, not go the other way. The savings just aren’t there (even after the tax credits expire).

    1. David Murray says:

      I agree that the BEV and EREV type vehicles will likely be moving upwards in range. In fact, EVERYTHING will be moving that direction. The point of the article was that vehicles that are currently just regular hybrids (that don’t plug in) will also be moving upwards by getting a plug and 20 miles of EV range. When the tax credits are gone, these will be the entry level to the plug-in market.

      1. kdawg says:

        I think when that day comes, putting 20 miles or less of AER in a plug-in car will be pointless. To me, it would be like putting a range extender with a 8oz gas tank into a BEV. No one would want to mess with a range extender for 10 miles of gas range, and people won’t want to bother plugging in for 10 miles of EV range. I also feel the cost savings will almost be non-existent. A 50+ mile BEV will have more battery, but the battery cells will cost less by the time the tax credits expire, and the range extender can be something that is more of a cheaper limp-mode since it is rarely used. I just don’t see someone looking at 2 physically identical cars, and one is say $1000 less, but only has 20 miles of AER, and the one that cost $1000 more has 50 miles AER. People will do the math and see they will get their $1000 back very quick. Just what my crystal ball says, and it has 5 out of 4 chance of being wrong.

        1. David Murray says:

          By that same logic, making a traditional hybrid with no EV range should also be pointless.

    2. Spec says:

      Seriously . . . the 20 mile PHEV makes no sense right now due to the tax-credit structure. Just go ahead and throw more battery in there. I think the car companies are crazy for not taking advantage of this. Especially Toyota with their illogical PiP which is wasting their 200K allotment of tax-credits foolishly.

  22. Priusmaniac says:

    The Ford Fusion energi has some advantages like seat five and a normal shape car.
    Ford has taken the EV from the very low end with only 20 ev miles.
    Perhaps if they bring that to 80 ev miles by increasing the battery size and content and by gaining place by shrinking the engine to fit more batteries, then yes a fusion could become interesting.
    In the end they could come to an 80 miles EV fusion with Rex.

  23. Dave K. says:

    I agree with David Murray, I think the best thing about a PHEV w/20mile range is the average person won’t find it too different from their ICE car. It’s sort of “methadone for oil addiction” you don’t have to give up the gas pump completely all at once but you get most of the benefits of EV driving. I think another factor is 120V charging works well for these small packs, no need to commit to installing an expensive EVSE. But of course many of these people will go all the way with their next car, the benefits are so compelling.

  24. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

    Volt has better deals
    Volt has higher tax credit.
    Volt has more AER.
    Volt has better EV performance.
    PiP has better CS fuel economy.
    PiP has more cargo space.
    PiP has deals on the east coast (or for anyone who cares to ship).
    Leaf has better deals.
    Leaf has higher tax credit.
    Leaf has full EV performance.
    Low AER means lower percentage EV, unless you can charge at work and don’t drive on longer trips.
    Ford has not promoted their PEVs.
    Ford is perceived as not caring about EVs.

    In short: because, well, meh.

    All this talk about it’ll be different when the tax credit goes away misses three key points:
    – if battery prices don’t fall by the time the tax credit is gone _all_ the mainstream PEV sales will be reduced and the cars will be withdrawn.
    – if battery and other drivetrain component prices are still falling at the time the tax credit is gone, the incremental cost of capacity and performance will reduce and people will pay the extra to get PHEV instead than HEV+P.
    – Tesla Gen 3 (or possibly 4 at the rate Ford is going).

  25. Ian says:

    There is a lot of skewing and biasing of reality in relation to tax credits, but if you think about it, the real issue is efficiency. If you want to kill range anxiety, you need a mega battery and the car is hauling that around from beginning to end and no matter what the SOC of the battery is. The reason battery power is so good is during stop-start driving and in acceleration and deceleration modes. The battery efficiently delivers and recovers power in acel/decel in which an ICE does not. Therefore if we get back to first principles and realise an ICE is ideal for 1) Steady state cruising and 2) Giving range without the weight penalty.

    So just having battery oomph for range, better to have a highly efficient engine (Prius uses the Atkinson cycle engine), I am blowed if I know why a diesel-hybrid has not appeared since it seems like a logical step given the very high efficiency of the diesel cycle.

    Finally the availability factor of having two power plants gives higher overall reliability and the extra power able to be tapped into offers a good benefit.

    I believe these are important additional factors in evaluating PHEVs vs BEVs.

  26. Mike Birtwistle says:

    What I dont understand about electric vehicles is why they never designed a battery loading system whereby the entire battery can be swapped out in a few minutes with a fully charged one at a service station. Then the service station can recharge the depleted batteries overnight during off peak times, faulty batteries can be replaced using an established supply chain and it will reduce the peak load on the national grid. I’m worried what will happen in 10 years from now if every household starts drawing an additional 10 kwh per day from the grid to recharge their cars. Have they factored THAT into our countries energy needs?
    I have just invested in a solar PV array. What I need is a charge that draws a low current (say 1-2kw) over a long period of time to recharge my car – i.e. i need a SLOWER recharge time so my PV array can cope with the load and I don’t draw from the grid while charging. Or ideally a car charger that works with an IMMERSUN type controller that matches my surplus generation to the charging load (by switching the car charger on an off very quickly several times each second).

  27. Earl Chase says:

    I own a 2013 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium. I do wish it had more EV range than the 20+ miles (I have gotten as high as 26 miles). However, for me most other EV’s on the market would not work in my situation except the Volt (technically a PHEV). I work 2 miles from home 2 days a week and 99 miles 1 day a week. I also live 45 miles from the closet major metropolitan center. So, the Telsa Model S would be the only BEV solution. However, I am not prepared to spend that kind of money for a car. When comparing the Volt to the Fusion, we are a family of five so the Volt I could not carrying my entire family. The C-Max versus the Fusion, the Fusion is just a better looking car. Additionally, the Fusion Energi Titanium is loaded with tech. It has many tech and safety features found in more expensive cars such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Warning, Active Lane Assist and the list goes on. Even with the 20+ EV range and my commute I am averaging 45 to 60 mpg. This is a great car if you can get past the reduced trunk space.