My C-MAX Energi Experience

I leased by C-MAX Energi on April 30th 2014. I owned a Mariner Hybrid for 6 years so I was quite used to the hybrid experience. The C-MAX Energi is a complete paradigm shift from a hybrid as most people know it. It is essentially an electric car that sometimes uses a gasoline engine.

I commute 16 miles each way to work. I have the option to use a Level 2 EV charger at work. With the 20 mile EV range of the C-MAX Energi I can run completely in EV mode if I charge at work.

For the first 500 miles, I used ‘Charge Reserve’ mode which forces the gasoline engine to run most of the time. I wanted to ‘break in’ the engine during those first miles. After that I started using ‘Auto’ EV mode all of the time. After one month, I had 1250 miles on the car. I filled it up with gas for the first time and put in 12 gallons. Yes, that works out to the equivalent of ~104 mpg. In two weeks of June, I have driven about 250 miles in ‘Auto’ EV mode, the gas gauge still shows full. From the end of drive information I estimate I have used about 1 gallon of gas.

Acceleration and drivability of the C-MAX are excellent. Nothing like any other hybrid I have driven. While driving at freeway speeds on electric power there is plenty of power to pull out or pass another vehicle. The gas engine starts and gives you the needed extra power. The only way you can really tell when the car changes from electric to gas is you can slightly hear the gas engine running. The electric drive and CVT transmission are absolutely smooth. Drive a C-MAX for a while and then drive a car with an automatic transmission, you will be really surprised what the automatic feels like.

The C-MAX Energi is absolutely top of it’s class, 5 stars, awesome. It is an amazing combination of technology and engineering that have come together to make an outstanding vehicle that Ford can be proud of.

Then I did the calculations:

The C-MAX Energi reports electrical power in Kw and gasoline used in gallons after each time it is driven. The following information is based on the statistics reported by the car.

Average miles per Kilowatt of charge4.0 Miles
Standard DTE electrical residential rate11.915 cents/KW
Cost per mile to drive the C-Max on electricity2.97 cents/mile
Estimate of potential hybrid mpg40.00 miles/gallon
Average cost per gallon of regular3.85$/gallon
Cost per mile to drive the C-max on gas9.63 cents/mile

So, to drive the C-MAX Hybrid, not the Energi it would potentially cost you three times what it would cost you with the C-MAX Energi. With the existing $4000 Federal Tax Credit for the Plug in C-MAX Energi versus none for the C-MAX Hybrid I have only one clear recommendation:

Buy/Lease a C-MAX Energi, NOT the C-MAX Hybrid, it is a COMPLETELY different car in the way it drives and could be much less expensive to operate in the long run. And more fun!

Level 2 charging, is it really necessary?

With DTE you have three choices:

  1. Plug in the included Level 1 charger or install a Level 2 charger and connect it to your normal house electrical service.
  2. Get an EV service and meter from DTE and get PEV rate. You get a reduced rate but you MUST purchase a Level 2 charger and have it installed. The reduced rate is only from 11:00 PM to 6:00 AM. Outside of those hours the rate is higher than regular residential service rates.
  3. Change your current DTE Service to a ‘Time of Use’ rate and use either a Level 1 or Level 2 charger connected to your house electrical service. With this service, during the peak hours of 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM, all electricity used by your house is 40% higher than normal. During off peak hours are about 20% less than normal.

The cheapest Level 2 Charger will cost ~$600 plus installation.

If you completely charge a C-MAX Energi 30 days a month for a year:

  • Normal DTE Residential rate = $340.00 Yr
  • Off Peak PEV rate = $208.00 Yr – must purchase $600+ charger
  • Time of Use rate = $277.00 to $502.00 Yr – depending on when you charge

To save money with the PEV rate and Level 2 charger would take 4 ½ years.

The only tangible reason to purchase a Level 2 charger would be to charge your C-Max Energi in 3 hours instead of 6 hours unless you will have the car for over 4 ½ years.

An ongoing update:

I filled the tank on May 30th. Based on my current driving pattern and charging, it looks like I will not need to buy gas until the first week of August. 8+ weeks and over 2,000 miles. This is way beyond any expectation I had about how much my gas costs per month would go down.

Jim Dormal
Information Technology
University of Michigan