DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. unveiled two next-generation hybrid vehicles -- including its first production plug-in hybrid electric vehicle -- at the 2011 North American International Auto Show. The Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid and C-MAX Hybrid are based on the new Ford C-MAX five-passenger vehicle.

The plug-in hybrid and third-generation full hybrid leverage Ford's global C-car platform, powersplit architecture, next-generation driver information features and advanced lithium-ion battery systems, Ford said.

"C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid will be perfect for families looking to maximize their hybrid car experience," said Nancy Gioia, Ford director of global electrification. "Thanks to the versatile interior, these cars are going to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers who need room to grow."

C-MAX Hybrid delivers better fuel economy than the 41 mpg Ford Fusion Hybrid and builds on the success of the powersplit architecture Ford uses in its current hybrids, allowing the vehicle to operate in electric mode beyond 47 mph.

Both the C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid models will be built alongside the all-new 2012 Ford Focus and Focus Electric at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. The plant's production is powered in part by one of the largest solar energy generator systems in the state. The C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid vehicles sold in Europe in 2013 will be built at Ford's plant in Valencia, Spain, starting in 2013.

Targeted to achieve AT-PZEV (Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) status, C-MAX Energi enhances fuel efficiency by pairing a high-voltage lithium-ion battery and electric traction motor with a high-efficiency Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine. This allows the vehicle to run in electric mode before using the gasoline engine.

"A plug-in hybrid owner may make fewer trips to the pump to refuel because of its all-electric mode capability," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford vice president of global product development. "Conveniently, they'll be able to recharge their plug-in hybrid at home overnight. And they'll never have to think about the vehicle's electric range, because the plug-in hybrid seamlessly shifts to fuel power when needed."

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The development of Ford's first-ever production plug-in hybrid leverages more than 200,000 miles of road testing conducted in collaboration with a coalition of 10 utility companies, the U.S. Department of Energy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Administration and the Electric Power Research Institute.

C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid will use advanced lithium-ion battery systems developed and assembled in-house by Ford in Michigan. Li-ion battery packs offer a number of advantages over the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries that power today's hybrid vehicles, Ford said. In general, they are 25 to 30 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter, which makes them easier to package in a vehicle. They can be tuned to increase power to boost acceleration or to increase energy to extend driving distance.

While C-MAX Hybrid will operate much like today's hybrid vehicles, C-MAX Energi will benefit from daily charging to maximize its all-electric range. The plug-in hybrid easily recharges 100 percent overnight on a 120-volt outlet.

A full charge in C‑MAX Energi allows owners to increase their driving significantly in all-electric mode and drastically reduce their use of the on-board fuel engine.

On start-up, C-MAX Energi will operate in charge-depletion mode, providing electric driving range. When the battery has been depleted or certain conditions are met, it switches to charge-sustaining hybrid mode for continued optimal fuel efficiency.

Ford worked with a supplier to provide an industry-standard five-point plug for C-MAX Energi and the new Focus Electric. When the cord set connector is plugged into the vehicle's charge port, which is located between the driver's door and front wheel well, it activates a light ring that loops around the port twice in acknowledgement of connectivity. The light ring then illuminates in quadrants as the vehicle charges. Flashing quadrants represent charge in progress and solid-lit quadrants show stages of charge completion. When the entire ring is solidly lit, the vehicle is fully charged.

C-MAX Energi owners will have access to a suite of driver information systems -- on-board and off-board -- designed to help them manage the recharge process, manage the most eco-friendly route on-board, remotely control their vehicle's charge and preconditioning settings, monitor battery state of charge and maximize energy efficiency to extend use of electric mode. C-MAX Hybrid owners also will benefit from the on-board features.

Among these tools is MyFord Touch driver connect technology, which offers configurability of vehicle information including fuel level, battery power level, and average and instant miles per gallon. The cluster's new MyView feature allows drivers to access even more vehicle data such as the electrical demands of vehicle accessories, including air conditioning, which influences fuel economy and the electric driving range of the C-MAX Energi.

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The Brake Coach feature helps to educate drivers to optimize their use of the regenerative brakes to recapture kinetic energy and send it back to the battery, also reducing wear on the brakes.

Long-term fuel efficiency can be displayed in two ways -- either as a traditional chart or using a display that shows a growing leafy vine on the right side of the cluster. The more efficient a customer is, the more lush and beautiful the leaves and vines become, creating a visual reward for the driver's efforts.

To reinforce the message, at the end of each trip a display screen provides distance driven, miles gained through regenerative braking, fuel consumed (average and total) and a regenerative braking score.

Off-board, C-MAX Energi owners in North America can maintain constant contact with the car anywhere they have mobile phone or Web access using the Ford-developed MyFord Mobile.

MyFord Mobile enables access to a secure Ford Web site and smartphone/feature phone app to get instant vehicle status information, perform key functions remotely, monitor the car's state of charge and current range, get various alerts including when the vehicle requires charging, remotely program charge settings and download vehicle data for analysis.

The feature also allows the owner to program the vehicle to use electricity from the grid to heat or cool the battery and cabin while plugged in. For example, during hot summer months, owners can preprogram the car the evening before to be fully charged - and fully cooled to a particular temperature - by a certain time the following morning. Users can also locate the vehicle with GPS, remotely start the vehicle, and remotely lock and unlock the car doors.

Working with MapQuest, MyFord Mobile can communicate charge station and other points of interest to C-MAX Energi using SYNC's Traffic, Directions and Information (TDI) service. Turn-by-turn guidance is provided by the in-car map-based navigation system. Drivers can also get up-to-date charging station information in their vehicle directly through SYNC TDI simply by connecting to SYNC Services.

Using the value charging feature, powered by Microsoft, C-MAX Energi owners in North America will be able to optimize their home's energy use and vehicle recharging practices. Value charging allows Ford customers to reduce their electricity costs by taking advantage of off-peak or reduced rates from their utility without a complicated set-up process.

"Although C-MAX Energi owners won't have to plug in, by doing so they'll get the benefits of driving in electric mode for longer distances; that can mean fewer trips to the gas station and less emissions when driving," said Sherif Marakby, director of Ford's hybrid and electric programs. "That's why we'll be providing C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid owners with a user-friendly interface and tools like value charging that will help them get the most out of the vehicle's electric mode capability."

In a powersplit hybrid, the electric motor and gasoline-powered engine can work together or separately to maximize efficiency. The engine also can operate independently of vehicle speed, charging the batteries or providing power to the wheels as needed. The motor alone can provide sufficient power to the wheels in low-speed, low-load conditions, and work with the engine at higher speeds.

While this system enables the current Fusion Hybrid to operate in fuel-saving electric mode up to 47 mph, Ford is targeting higher electric operating speeds for C-MAX Hybrid and even more capability for C-MAX Energi, which will have the advantage of additional battery power.

C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid are two of at least 10 new models or derivatives that Ford will launch around the world based on its new global C-car platform. Ford's new generation of C-segment vehicles will be sold in more than 120 markets and will account for more than 2 million units annually. The C-segment accounts for one in four cars sold worldwide today and, in conjunction with the B-segment, is expected to rise to 50 percent of all cars sold globally by 2013.

C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid are two of five electrified vehicles that Ford will bring to the North American market during the next two years. In addition, the Ford Transit Connect Electric small commercial van, built in collaboration with Azure Dynamics, began initial production at the end of 2010, and Focus Electric will launch in late 2011. A second next-generation hybrid electric vehicle will be announced later and available in North America and Europe in 2012. 

Originally posted on Green Fleet Magazine

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