2013 Ford C-MAX Energi

Ford C-MAX Energi beats Chevy Volt with seating for five

Long time Chevy Volt uber-fan, Dr. Lyle Dennis, exposes key flaw in Volt's design as he trades his beloved Volt in for a Ford C-MAX Energi.

The Chevy Volt is, by many measures, an excellent car, as evidenced by the high customer satisfaction awards showered upon GM's plug-in hybrid electric car. It has a flaw, however, that has caused one of the biggest Volt cheerleaders, Dr. Lyle Dennis, to trade in his Volt (the 8th produced) for a Ford C-MAX Energi. Dr. Dennis is in a somewhat different position than most Volt owners, because he started the GM-Volt.com website, and was a major Volt cheerleader, with his website collecting a list of 54,000 people raising their hands to say they'd buy a Volt. Dr. Dennis also served on the Chevy Volt Advisory Board, organized by Chelsea Sexton around the time of the Volt launch.

In other words, Dr. Dennis is the top dog of Chevy Volt fandom. What would make such an uber-fan trade in his Volt? It's his five member family (three kids), and the hump in the middle of the Volt's rear seat.

The key flaw of the Volt is that it is clearly a four-seater. The T-shaped battery pack forms this tunnel running down the middle of the passenger compartment, intruding far enough that the middle of the rear seat cannot be used for a fifth passenger. For those with five person families, the need to comfortably seat five people is a necessity.

As Dr. Dennis explained in a post on InsideEV's, the family fleet had morphed into a Volt and a Leaf and the plan for long trips was to rent a bigger car. But a failed car rental attempt convinced them to give up the Volt. Fortuitously, Ford is introducing the Ford C-MAX Energi, a plug-in hybrid with seating for five, very soon.

The Ford C-MAX Energi is based on a car Ford sells in Europe, the C-MAX. In Europe it has both gasoline and diesel drive trains, and is very popular. For North America, the C-MAX will be available with both hybrid and plug-in hybrid drive trains, and is one of the key salvo's in Ford's strategy to win against Toyota and Honda.

The C-MAX is similarly sized to the Toyota Prius V, and has a high rear roof-line and hatchback that positions it between sedans and SUV's in terms of size and usefulness. It is a roomy vehicle, offering many great features, and has a fun driving experience.

The C-MAX Energi is a plug-in hybrid that carries a 7.5 kilowatt-hour battery pack, and has a 20 mile electric-only driving range. As a hybrid it has an impressive 47 mpg combined city/highway fuel efficiency. This makes the C-MAX Energi's hybrid-mode fuel efficiency much higher than the Volt's 35 miles/gallon, while the electric-only driving range of 20 miles is shorter than the Volt's 36ish miles.

As Dr. Dennis explained "The C-MAX Energi might not be as aesthetic as the Volt nor as symbolic, but it is a very practical design for a family of my size." While saying "I absolutely love and adore my Chevy Volt" he made it clear, "A fifth seat" was the overriding factor leading him to trade his Volt for a Ford C-MAX Energi.

This very pragmatic choice will play out in thousands of car purchasing decisions in the coming months. The eco-conscious family that wants an electrified vehicle, but requires a five seat car, will be better served by the C-MAX than by the Volt.

Source: Inside EV's

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If Ford doesn't sell a lot of these I will eat a bug. This thing seems like a homerun.
But once Ford sells the first 1000 get ready for the attacks. I predict it will be Reuters first in with an "ugly math" article announcing that the real cost to Ford to produce the C-Max is $500,000 a copy! ( ie 500 million R&D / this months sales = same math they used on the volt). Competition, Competition, Competition and ignore the tabloid press! That is the road to economic success!
The C-Max looks like a very nice car. For my 25.6 mile round trip to work, however, I would burn some gas daily in a C-Max. In my Volt it's gas free. 70% of my driving is on battery power in the Volt and my impression is that it would be only 50-55% in the C-Max. I have considered the C-Max for my retired wife who just drives around town. In my year of Volt ownership: 95 % of my driving is alone to and from work. 4%-two people 1%-three people I've had four people in my Volt once and have never needed to carry 5. But, some people do need the fifth seat and some need a minivan. One thing to keep in mind is that, while the C-Max carries more people, the Volt looks like it's better for cargo. If I understand correctly, the C-Max battery sticks up in the back and you can't make the floor flat. I can take my lawnmower in for service in the Volt, but am not sure I could in the C-Max. The bottom line is that people need to carefully consider what kind of driving they do.
If the Volt were to get an Atkinson cycle gas engine rather than the non-turbo Chevy Cruze OTTO cycle engine, the Volt would get better extended-range MPG. We might see this in the 2014 Volt. Probably low to mid 40s, slightly lower than the C-max because the Volt is heavier than the C-max Energi. The Prius is lighter than the C-max Energi.