Ford C-Max: What is the “Energi?”
The “Energi” in the new Ford C-Max. What is it?
Earlier this month, we told you that we’re in possession of a 2015 Ford C-Max Energi Hybrid / Electric Car for a 30 day road test & review. We posted some “first impressions” of the Ford C-Max last week. Here’s a little more today.
The Energi lines that Ford is producing these days are still hybrid vehicles. That means they still use a combination of gas and electric powered motors.
Sometimes only battery, sometimes only gas, and much of the time a “hybrid” mix of both power sources. Their way of improving “fuel economy.”
There are two particular aspects that make the Energi models different than most other hybrids:
- They can plug into an electric power source, and be used STRICTLY as a battery only car (more on that below) and,
- They have the ability to use “regular” 110 volt electricity found in all homes, without the need for a special 220 volt line.
Okay, so what does that mean?
By using a more powerful high-voltage battery in their Energi line of cars, Ford has created a vehicle that can go further on less gasoline.
On battery alone (after a full charge which takes over 6 and a half hours on 110v and a bit less than 3 hours on 220v), the car is advertised to have a range of around 17 miles per charge.
This assumes that you’re driving on a straight road, accelerate slowly, no stops and an ambient temperature of 72 degrees with no excessive load in the car (i.e., 4 passengers), no air conditioning, etc.
It’s certainly possible to get much less than they suggest.
However, depending on the road conditions, this “battery only” range can even be increased by 20-30% if you have a lot of breaking and steep hills. They don’t factor that into the number because it’s highly variable.
Why do hills matter?
Well, there are three specific ways the battery can charge en route:
- For one, regardless of any hills, the car has the common “regenerative braking” feature, which offers a fairly quick way to add a few percentage clicks back to the capacity of the Lithium Ion battery. Regular city driving works, but coming to a stop from faster travel speeds works better, naturally, because you’re on the brake longer and harder.
- Secondly, the battery does charge while coasting (albeit minimally) and,
- Lastly, it has a feature called engine braking, which uses a different gear ratio going down hills, lets you save your brakes a bit, and charges a bit faster than coasting alone.
The combination of those three re-charge methods are designed to squeeze as much as possible out of the high voltage battery.
Battery / Hybrid cars have lots of data to chew on
Coming from a V8 gas-only car, this new-found fiddling and monitoring seemed out of place and unnatural for someone with no experience with this type of vehicle. We got used to it eventually – but it alters your driving experience (if you’re keen on saving battery).
You have all sorts of different gauges, like the “empower” mode which shows you the limit of acceleration before you “switch” from battery to gas, the “engage” mode, which shows an active display of which motor is working and how much, a performance “coach” which rates your braking, cruising and acceleration, and even something called an “efficiency leaves,” which is a graphic depiction of branches and leaves. The more leaves, the more “eco-friendly” you’re driving, and as you drive harder, the poor leaves fall off. Who would have thunk “emotion” would be designed into today’s modern automobiles?
Oddly enough, with all the draconian laws that dictate cell phone and seat belt usage, there are no such laws for distracting dashboards. Go figure. As long as it’s good for the environment, forget how distracting it is!
I found myself checking these displays more than I should have, and can see how maybe some folks might lose track of where they’re going. All real-time displays beyond speed and gas tank levels should really be on a “HUD” (Heads Up Display) so drivers do not get tempted to look away from the road for an extended period of time. Last we checked, a “HUD” was not an available option on this car.
Ford C-Max Energi is: A “mixed fuel” car
So there you have a laypersons explanation of what these new-age hybrid / electric cars do, and a bit of what’s involved.
In the end, it’s still just a car – and gets you from Point A to Point B like any other vehicle.
Stay tuned to another update next week, as we delve deeper into what all of this really means, including what the precise “fuel economy” really is, along with comprehensive REAL WORLD test results from an ordinary driver like us. We’re trying to get a variety of data (and as much as possible) to accurately analyze so that sensible conclusions can be drawn.
Plus – we’ll take a crack at exactly who the ideal customers for these types of vehicles are.
Like we said previously, while it’s definitely a car, it’s an interesting type of car that demonstrates human ingenuity and resourcefulness. Let’s see what happens after we crunch the honest real-world data!