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First Look: Ford C-Max Energi

The C-Max Energi is one of three new electric vehicles Ford will roll out over the next couple of years. First we will see the Focus Electric in late 2011, followed by two versions of the short-wheelbase, five-passenger C-Max wagon at an unspecified time in 2012: the C-Max Hybrid, which uses a version of the existing hybrid-electric powertrain that currently serves in the Ford Fusion sedan; and the C-Max Energi, which is going to be a plug-in hybrid similar to the Chevy Volt.

Ford says that its plug-in hybrid powertrain is blended, meaning that the vehicle first uses the charge of the battery and then runs in regular hybrid mode. This supposedly produces the best possible fuel economy and allows Ford to use a smaller, lighter, and cheaper battery, making the vehicle purchase price more affordable to the consumer. The powertrain will employ an Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine as well as a motor powered by a lithium ion battery pack that Ford is developing in-house to shave costs. Ford is targeting a 500-mile range using both the battery and the engine.

The C-Max Energi, like the Ford Focus Electric, will be equipped with a unique version of Ford's MyFord Touch driver-connect system tailored specifically to the requirements of a rechargeable powertrain. What's more, Ford has developed what it is calling MyFord Mobile as an app for smart phones that will allow owners to monitor the Energi's state of charge and current range and figure out the most efficient way to recharge. "We want customers to be able to take advantage of utility pricing," Ed Pleet, manager of the MyFord Mobile app, tells Automobile Magazine. To that end, Ford has partnered with Microsoft, which will supply energy price data from 3000 utilities to Ford; Ford will feed this information to MyFord Mobile, which Focus Electric and C-Max Energi buyers will access from three places: 1) 8-inch screen in vehicle; 2) computer; 3) smart phone. With this information, owners can choose recharging priorities: speed or cost. The system will know, say, that on a particular evening, your local utility company is selling kilowatts the cheapest from 3-7 AM and will charge the vehicle at that time. MyFord Mobile will be free for the first five years of ownership.

The C-Max Energi will be built at Ford's recently retooled Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, alongside all versions of the new Focus sedan, including the Focus Electric.