C-Max Hybrid Numbers Questioned

Ford Focus ST
Ford Focus ST

One of the most prestigious market review companies, Consumer Reports, announced last Thursday its discovery of an apparent discrepancy in the numbers proclaimed by Ford. The report focused on the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and the C-Max Hybrid and it highlighted the fact that these two vehicles fall short of the estimated fuel economy numbers as required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The government agency numbers that are placed on the window labels of these Ford models are 47 mpg city, 47 highway, and 47 combined. According to the Consumer Reports tests, the Fusion Hybrid was only able to muster 39 mpg combined while the C-Max Hybrid was able to reach only 37 mpg overall. The consumer rights organization said that the discrepancies in the numbers in its test results and the EPA numbers were the largest difference ever seen with the current models.

There is a disclaimer though that says, “your results may differ” but these numbers are determined by automobile manufacturers in dynamometer testing using a prescribed driving sequence. The EPA is said to spot check about 15 percent of the new car fleet in its own test labs.

Ford issued a statement in response to the Consumer Reports test results. It said, “Early C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid customers praise the vehicles and report a range of economy figures, including some reports above 47 mpg. This reinforces the fact that driving style, driving conditions and other factors can cause mileage to vary.”

Wesley Sherwood, spokesperson for Ford, also stated that an independent forum for C-Max owners had comments on fuel economy. Some commented that they reached no better than the Consumer Reports results and others shared that they were able to reach the EPA estimates.

The Consumer Reports challenge has become a big issue in the car world, especially after Hyundai and Kia were forced to reimburse its buyers for overstating the fuel economy of some of their vehicles. The EPA discovered the discrepancies after it conducted an investigation on Hyundai and Kia mileage after numerous complaints from its owners. The automaker later admitted that it provided inaccurate numbers.

Despite the admission, the consumer advocate firm extolled the fuel economy numbers of the Hyundai Elantra. This was seconded by the EPA, as it was also cited for its fuel efficiency. In a review, Tom Mutchler, an automotive engineer at Consumer Reports said that the Elantra “gets very impressive fuel economy. We got nearly 40 mpg on the highway in our tests.” Mr. Mutchler also tested the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, a vehicle similarly cited by the EPA. He criticized the vehicle’s on-road behavior, braking and handling but gave good marks for its fuel efficiency.

In highlighting the discrepancies in the Ford vehicles, Consumer Reports also stated that it had not yet concluded the testing of the Ford Fusion and the C-Max hybrids. It did praise the Fusion, saying (the Fusion) “is a sold well-rounded package.” On the other hand, the C-Max was called “a very practical package that also drives well.” They also said that despite the discrepancies, the numbers were considered as very good as the 39 mpg of the Fusion is the leading number of all tested family sedans while the C-Max placed second behind class leader the Toyota Prius V.

2012 Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus ST
Ford Focus ST

While many other electric cars would have avante garde or anime cartoon styling, one of the very few stylish electric cars on the roads today would be the 2012 Ford Focus Electric. The new offering from Ford would be available in major car markets, such as California, New York and New Jersey. The same vehicles would be available in nineteen other locations by the fall season.

What differentiates the Ford Focus Electric is its nearly identical look to the fuel version, with only the small Electric badge as the only difference to identify that under the hood is an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine. The seats are low and conform well to body, making the ride completely normal. There are no eclectic electronic dashboard lights, artificial start up sounds, special shifter gizmos or high tech Eco modes. When at the driver’s seat, all that needs to be done is to choose between standard automatic selections of park, drive, low, neutral and reverse.

The main strength of electric vehicles would be their high torque, even at a complete stop, allowing for great acceleration from a standing stop to full speed. The power train is tailor made for highway driving by allowing rapid acceleration between thirty to fifty mph and between fifty five and seventy five mph, with plenty to spare. This was clearly an achievement for Ford auto engineers who targeted individual electric car owners who have trouble shedding their old gasoline car driving habits.

According to Eric Kuehn, Chief Engineer for Global Electrified Programs at Ford, “We wanted the Focus Electric to be a vehicle first, that just happened to be electric.”

Electric cars by nature are quiet as the electric motor only provides a whisper of its whirring while in motion. Ford engineers took it to luxury extremes as it provided extra insulation and sound dampening materials to lower overall road noise to ultra luxury levels even with a 107 kilowatt motor running at eighty five mph. It also has a single speed transmission that allows for direct linear velocity and no delay in response in engaging the motor’s features, unlike an internal combustion engine.

All these improvements result in high efficiency performance at just one third the fuel costs of the standard Ford Focus. Furthermore, the Focus Electric uses a 6.6 kilowatt charger, making charging to full in just a few minutes over four hours when attached to a 240 volt outlet. This also provides for twenty miles of driving range in an hour.

Currently, the Ford Focus Electric has a base sticker price of U.S.$39,995. Deducting the U.S.$7,500 federal tax credit as well as the U.S.$2,500 rebate from the State of California, putting the final price at just about U.S.$30,000, it is still a bit pricey. With an EPA rating of 110 mpg, the premium value would be earned as one uses the Ford Focus Electric.

Hybrids For One Time Only

Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius

According to a recent survey by the auto information company R.L. Polk and Co, only 35% of hybrid vehicle owners choose to purchase a hybrid again when they return for a second purchase. This was the trend despite the increasing number of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles available in the market in the United States.

There is an even lower turnout of second time purchasers, down to twenty five percent, when the loyal Toyota Prius buyers are excluded from the survey. The survey was conducted in hybrid vehicle hotbeds such as Southern California and Seattle. Despite such high first time buyers, the area’s hybrid owners would not likely to purchase a second hybrid unit at the same rate as any other area in the country.

There are many theories as to the low repurchase rates for first adopters. One of these theories focus on the increased market share of electric car purchasers, numbering 17,000 last year which in turn is related to the number of trade-ins of hybrid vehicles for fully electric vehicles. Another theory is the current high profile class action suit and small claims lawsuits over fuel efficiency issues with older models of its hybrid version Civic. The third and most alarming, is the lower price of fuel-efficient conventional cars compared to hybrid or electric vehicles.

Cross-shopping date from auto information company Edmunds.com showed that purchasers compare hybrids with similar vehicles with internal combustion engines. An example would be the comparison would be the conventional Honda Civic is the second most compared vehicle by individuals searching online for information against hybrid models Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.

According to Lacey Plache, Chief Economist at Edmunds.com said, “The lineup of alternative-drive vehicles and their premium price points just aren’t appealing enough to consumers to give the segment the momentum it once anticipated, especially given the growing strength of fuel economy among compact and midsize competitors.”

Overall, hybrids comprise just 2.4% of the new vehicle market in the United States, according to Polk, a decline from 2.9% back in 2008. The market is still lead by the first hybrid vehicle maker, the Toyota Prius. The company has expanded its line, with the “V” station wagon and the “C” subcompact. In 2011, Toyota was able to sell a total of 136,463 units despite supply issues as a result of the Japanese natural disasters. Ford came in at a very far second, selling just 11,286 units overall.

The survey lead to the conclusion that hybrid owners are either reselling their green vehicles and opting for either fuel efficient internal combustion engine vehicles or purchasing fully electric vehicles. Over the years, the number has been quite consistent as to the purchase behavior, with 2008 registering 35.2 percent, 39.6 percent in 2009, 38.9 percent in 2010 and the 35 percent for 2011.

Ford Focus Electric For Sale

Ford Focus ST
Ford Focus ST

Ford Motor Company has recently opened its doors to take orders for its all-electric Ford Focus Electric. The electric car is priced at $39,995 inclusive of a $795 destination fee. The announcement is low-key compared to its competitors, namely the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf who were sold in a staggered rollout in 2010.

Taking into account federal incentives set at $7,500, the Ford Focus Electric still would come at about $3,900 pricier compared to the 2012 Nissan Leaf SV. The Volt on the other hand reduced its price from $41,000 to $39,995 last June.

The Ford Focus Electric is powered by a 92-kilowatt electric motor producing an equivalent 123 horsepower of torque. The engine gets its power from a 23-kilowatt hour lithium ion battery pack that is liquid cooled, unlike its competitors who have it air-cooled. There is still no official estimation from Ford as to its range, saying that it is comparable to the competition. Ford says the top speed of the Focus Electric is at 84 miles per hour. The Focus would not be compatible with D.C. fast chargers but has an optional 240-volt charger in just three hours, according to the automaker.

Other inclusions in the Ford Focus Electric includes the MyFord Touch driver connect system specific for electric vehicles. This system provides information such as the state of charge of the battery, distance to charge points, range budget and expected range margin. There is also a feature allowing to determine the electrical demands of the vehicle, such as airconditioning, radio and other electrical appliances that can affect overall driving range. The system can be customized to suit the needs of the owner according to the daily, weekly or monthly driving needs.

The value charging system of the car is designed by Microsoft and there is a smart phone application called the MyFord Mobile allowing the owners to control and charge their vehicles remotely.  There is also a touch based Navigation system using the stock eight-inch touch screen. With the system, the driver adds on information such as destination and next charging station providing advice to optimize the available resources of the vehicle.

This vehicle is a five-door hatchback, similar to the Nissan Leaf design. The electric car revolution has clearly rolled out and is coming your way.