Ford Debuts 2012 C-MAX Energi Plug-in Hybrid and C-MAX Hybrid at Detroit Show

Ford is certainly going “green” at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show with the world premiere of its first ever production plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the C-MAX Energi, and the more conventional C-MAX Hybrid. Both models are based on the European market five-seater C-MAX and not the longer, seven-seater Grand C-MAX with the rear sliding doors to be offered in the States.

“[The] C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid will be perfect for families looking to maximize their hybrid car experience”, said Nancy Gioia, Ford director of Global Electrification. “Thanks to the versatile interior, these cars are going to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers who need room to grow”.

The C-MAX Energi is targeting an AT-PZEV (Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) status, by pairing a high-voltage lithium-ion battery and electric motor with an Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine. Ford says that this setup allows the eco-friendly people carrier to run in electric mode before using the internal combustion powerplant.

The Energi is said to offer more than 500 miles (800 km) of overall driving range, which is nothing short of impressive, and better charge-sustaining fuel economy than the Chevrolet Volt.Other advantages include potential savings on energy and fuel costs and increased energy independence, just to name a few.

“A plug-in hybrid owner may make fewer trips to the pump to refuel because of its all-electric mode capability”, said Derrick Kuzak, Ford vice president of Global Product Development. “Conveniently, they’ll be able to recharge their plug-in hybrid at home overnight. And they’ll never have to think about the vehicle’s electric range, because the plug-in hybrid seamlessly shifts to fuel power when needed”.

The C-MAX Hybrid’s primary target is to achieve better mileage compared to the Fusion Hybrid’s 41 mpg. For this it relies on Ford’s powersplit architecture, allowing it to operate in fuel-saving electric mode beyond 47 mph (76 km/h).

The electric motor provides power in low-speed and low-load conditions and works together with the gasoline engine at higher speeds. The latter also can operate independently, charging the batteries or powering the driven wheels as needed.

Both cars use lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries developed in-house by Ford, packing a number of advantages over nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) solutions. They are smaller, lighter and can be tuned to offer either more power for better acceleration or increased energy to improve driving range.

According to Ford, the Energi’s battery pack “easily” recharges overnight on a 120-volt outlet.

The Energi and Hybrid will come with advanced information systems, which will help drivers to better manage the recharging process and route planning, monitor battery charge and maximize energy efficiency. Together with Microsoft, Ford also developed a value-charging feature that will help North American Energi customers to optimize their household’s energy use and vehicle recharging practices.

The new models will hit U.S. showrooms in 2012, while European sales are set to start in 2013.

By Csaba Daradics

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