Does It Do What It Claims?
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Does It Do What It Claims?
An interesting variety of weather conditions allowed us to see how temperature and use of the climate system affect the car's electric range. Driving in conditions ranging from 20 degrees in the snow to 60 degrees in the rain, we drew some eye-opening conclusions. As with all vehicles, mileage may vary, but when it comes to EV range on the C-Max Energi, it's less theory and more reality. The EV range estimator was erratic during our week of testing, ranging from 17 miles of predicted EV range at full charge down to just 10 miles. Deciding factors seemed to be twofold: ambient temperature and climate-control use. Just turning on the automatic climate control system — even with the car already warmed up — instantly drops estimated EV range by 4 miles. As expected, colder mornings saw lower EV range estimates than warmer mornings. But whatever the weather, never once did we see an estimated EV range approaching the EPA-rated 21 miles, demonstrating just how easily ambient temperatures affect the C-Max Energi and its air-cooled battery pack.
Birds of a Feather
Given the C-Max Energi's EV capabilities, comparisons are natural between the C-Max Energi and the Chevrolet Volt, which also uses a range-extending gasoline engine once its onboard electric battery has been depleted. Unlike the Volt — which provides full electric acceleration, never using its gas engine until the battery pack is depleted — the C-Max Energi can use its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in conjunction with the electric motor for the majority of its propulsion. To make the most of that flexibility, the Energi has a selector button that lets the driver choose among three operating modes: Auto, EV and Battery Saving. Auto allows the car to determine when to use the engine — either for extra oomph, like when merging onto a highway, or when electrical needs get too great, like blasting the air conditioning on a hot day. EV mode keeps the car in electric mode — most of the time. The engine is not truly defeatable, so it will still switch on if it absolutely thinks it needs to. In Battery Saving mode, the engine will be the primary power source for propulsion and electrical needs, saving the battery charge for later use.
As an EV, the Energi works quite well. It's torquey, quiet and quick about town. In some ways, though, it's also limited as an actual EV. Where the Volt can go through a typical day's use before needing a charge, the C-Max Energi's much smaller battery (it's less than half the size of the Volt's) lasts half as long. While the range estimator varies widely depending on conditions and use, it is fairly accurate. If it says 14 miles, so long as you drive carefully and slowly, the car will achieve 14 miles. What the C-Max Energi did not do was achieve anywhere near the 47 mpg average that the basic C-Max is rated: Despite very careful driving and maximum use of EV mode, the on-board computer typically registered trips at 37-38 mpg, occasionally rising to 41 mpg in milder weather when the climate control was switched off.