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Plugged-in with the Ford C-Max Energi

Tested here, the C-Max Energi SE plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) starts off, like its hybrid (HEV) sibling, with a 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gas engine that makes 141 hp and 129 lb/ft of torque.

  • 2017 Ford C-Max Energi

THE PROS & CONS

    • What’s Best: A revised C-Max Energi for 2017, still a reasonable and affordable plug-in alternative.
    • What’s Worst: Fuel economy not as good as expected. Cargo space and second row limitations.
    • What’s Interesting: Changes for 2017 have freshened the face and added significant techs. New Sync3 system available.

It’s been a few years since I last pursued the parental ritual of helping to put together one of the brats’ Grade 8 science projects.

“What!! What do you mean, it’s due tomorrow?”

But dust off the calculator and limited rational thinking skills and prepare to face science once more with a test of Ford’s 2017 C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.

First, to get the common car stuff out of the way, the C-Max is a compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), that, in many countries, includes five- and seven-passenger models featuring diesel and petrol powertrains.

Ford C-Max Energi

Here in North America, the C-Max is a little more specialized and limited to a one-size, five-passenger layout powered by a choice of either hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrains.

For 2017, the C-Max has had a mild facelift with redesigned grille openings, new headlights and taillights, new technologies, and some trim changes with added Titanium top-end models and new colours.

But you probably wouldn’t notice the changes because, frankly, you’d barely notice a C-Max in the first place. It’s an unobtrusive car that doesn’t exactly stand out in a crowd and, with its specialized powertrains; it is hardly a large presence in the automotive marketplace.

Also Read: Second Hand: 2013-15 Ford C-Max a Prius alternative

But, its tall-wagon architecture does provide roomy and adequate comfort for five and it hosts the kind of sustainable technologies to tweak the interest of early-adopters, tech-nerds and those that just like to thumb their noses at service stations as they drive by.

Tested here, the C-Max Energi SE plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) starts off, like its hybrid (HEV) sibling, with a 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gas engine that makes 141 hp and 129 lb/ft of torque.

Both vehicles add electric oomph with a battery-driven 88 kW electric motor that ups the power total to a combined 188 hp.

Ford C-Max Energi

The main difference between the two is that the plug-in version harnesses a bigger Lithium-ion battery pack – producing 7.6 kWh instead of the hybrid’s 1.4 kWh power source. Consequences of that bigger battery include added weight (+117 kg) and less cargo room (see specs below).

On the plus side, however, according to Ford, the extra battery power allows for up to 32 km of electric-only. And the Energi can be easily recharged through the vehicle’s external charge port (7 hours at 120V or 2.5 hours at 240V).

Let the science experiment begin.

Day 1

Picked up an uncharged C-Max Energi and ran it as a simple hybrid for the first day, recovering up to 90 per cent inertial energy through regenerative braking power to translate back into EV power.

Day 2

Start – 96 per cent charged – range 640 km + 17 km EV

Charged overnight and fuel tank topped off. After using the 17 km of pure electric power, we are back to regular hybrid operation. Temperatures for the week will be below freezing. I will embrace the comforts of heating and make it a real-world test. On cold mornings you can select EV Later mode to warm up the car and then switch to EV Now or EV Auto.

End – 65.6 km incl. 33.8 km EV for an estimated 6.3L/100km.

2017 Ford C-Max Energi

Day 3

Start -100 per cent charged – range 584 km +18 km EV

There are a few “intentional” charging stations in the area operated by credit card, mostly at malls, transit stations and hotels (ironically the Trump Hotel Toronto is one). And there are, umm, shall we say “unintentional” charging points – underground parking where one might find an unguarded outlet next to an open spot.

But I play it safe this time, go home for lunch, plug in for 45 min and regain 4 km.

End – 47.3 km incl. 24.8 km EV for an estimated 5.3L/100km.

Also Read: Where to find electric car charging stations in the GTA

Day 4

Start – 100 per cent charged – range 563 km + 18 km EV

Two passengers aboard today and, again, mostly urban driving, some highway. On longer drives you tend to forget the science and just enjoy the virtually seamless shifts between gasoline and electric power, the smooth and capable driving qualities of the C-Max Energi.

End – 79.2 km incl. 46 km EV for a repeated estimate of 5.3L/100km.

2017 Ford C-Max Energi

Day 5

Start – 100 per cent charged – range 516 km + 19 km EV

Driving like a granny this day for better results. Checked out free charging at the Home Depot but it wasn’t working. And that had gone unnoticed due to low demand.

End – 48 km incl. 36.4 km EV for an estimated 3.0L/100km.

Day 6

Start – 100 per cent charged – range 550 + 19 km

A two-passenger highway trip into the city including long traffic jams. Fortunately, that’s where the idle-stop comes in.

End – 61.6 km incl. 36 km EV for an estimated 4.1L/100km.

Day 7

Start – 100 per cent charged – range 467 + 21 km EV

A sleepy Sunday and, of course, the less driving you do, the higher your EV percentage and the better your fuel economy. Low mileage commuters would rarely have to fill up if they drove these amounts every day.

End – 21.6 km incl. 18 km EV for an estimated 1.4L/100km.

2017 Ford C-Max Energi

The end result of my test run worked out to a 5.3L/100km (comb) average after 323 km (including 195 km of EV operation). Hardly a big enough fuel usage difference compared to non-hybrid application of 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle engines I’ve tested recently.

Recharging uses about 8 kWh per night, which, at an off-peak rate of $0.18 per kWh, is not too hard to take although there are the usual hydro delivery charges and other fees attached, thank you Ms. Wynne.

And, yes, we can debate endlessly about the justification of plug-in hybrid purchases but, as I’ve argued before, these judgments are based more on personal convictions about sustainability and environmental conscientiousness than on pure economics.

On the plus side, the C-Max Energi SE’s $29,828 starting price blow is softened by a $7,730 provincial rebate in Ontario and long haul commuters might consider the cost well worth the green licence plate that allows free HOV/HOT access.

Plug-in enthusiasts should also check out the Chevrolet Volt ($34,095, 85 km EV range), Hyundai Sonata PHEV ($43,999, 43 km EV range) and the upcoming Toyota Prius Prime PHEV ($TBD, 40 km EV range).

You might not need a lab coat, pocket protector and slide rule but a little extra scientific research never hurts.

Also Read: BMW 330e PHEV is the new green

Ford C-Max Energi

2017 Ford C-Max SE

BODY STYLE: Compact MPV or activity vehicle

DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, front-wheel drive, e-CVT transmission

ENGINE: 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle I-4 (141 hp, 129 lb/ft) and 88 kW permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor (188 hp combined)

CARGO: 545 litres, 1,211 litres with second row folded (compared to hybrid’s 694 litres, 1,489 litres)

TOW RATING: Not recommended

FUEL ECONOMY: 2.5Le/100km. As tested 5.3L/100km (city/hwy)

PRICE: SE $29,828. As tested $32,253 incl Driver Assist Pkg ($1,800), Interior Protection Pkg ($225), Exterior Protection Pkg ($300). Delivery ($1,650) not incl

WEB: ford.ca

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