Ford C-Max Energi, family car with hybrid drive

     The Ford C-Max Energi is a compelling alternative to the other leading plug-in hybrids the Chevy Volt and Plug-in Prius. It offers 20 miles of all-electric driving, 620 miles of total range, and an attractive price. The C-Max is considered a small "activity" vehicle, which is popular in Europe but not widely available in the United States. The small wagon like platform is versatile and functional.


When stacked against conventional hybrids like the Toyota Prius, the C-Max is considered a much more capable and enjoyable ride. Acceleration is brisk and handling is compliant. The 2014 Ford C-Max no-plug Hybrid’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and 118-horsepower electric motor combine to provide a healthy dose of 188 ponies. Total output for the Energi plug-in version rises to 195 horsepower because of the larger battery pack’s greater ability to deliver electricity to the motor.

If you are mostly staying within the C-Max Energi’s 20-mile or so real-world all-electric range, and use the car’s “EV Now” mode, you can avoid burning any gasoline and enjoy the telltale driving characteristics of an EV. “When you go into EV Now mode, you are literally locking out the engine pull-up, and driving on battery performance,” John Davis, the chief engineer for the C-Max in North America, told “Even if you go to fast acceleration, almost a wide-open throttle situation, you will get full battery capability, and we will prevent the engine from coming on.”

That means smooth, quick and quiet acceleration. However, when driving purely on battery and electric motor, with no assistance from the gas engine, the total power to the wheels is noticeably reduced by 70 horsepower.

There are a few conditions when you will reach the limits of the EV Now mode: when zooming down the highway above 85 miles per hour; when the state-of-charge of the 7.5-kWh battery pack gets low enough to begin transition from charge-depletion to charge-sustaining; or for the “very rare event” of high battery temperature.

Fortunately, Ford engineers have perfected the art of hybrid smoothness so that it’s barely perceptible if the gas engine is actually on or not. C-Max Energi drivers can also use the “EV Later” button, similar to the Volt’s Mountain Mode, to save grid-supplied energy for later use—or keep the vehicle in “EV Auto” mode, in which the vehicle operates more like the conventional C-Max hybrid. Regardless of the mode, performance strikes a good balance of power, refinement and efficiency.


The Ford C-Max Energi’s battery pack is relatively small at 7.6 kilowatt-hours. That compares to the 24-kWh battery pack of a Nissan LEAF, or the Volt’s 16-kWh pack. A smaller battery means lower driving range, but at the same time, less charging time required to fill up.

In other words, charging equipment in a plug-in hybrid like the C-Max Energi is really not that critical. Even with the relatively slow charging speed of the C-Max Energi’s 3.3 kW on-board charger, coming from a 240-volt home charger, the battery can go from empty to full in less than three hours—thereby restoring 20 miles of all-electric range.

In fact, there is a strong argument for simply using the cord set supplied with the vehicle, plugged into a common 120-volt home outlet, which can easily fill up the C-Max Energi’s battery pack overnight (in about 6 to 7 hours). This allows owners to avoid the expense and hassle of installing a home EV charger.