The C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid – A Day in the Life.

“I’ve really got to go – I don’t want to be late for work.” I kiss my wife and kids on the forehead, grab my coffee and head out of the kitchen to the garage. I unplug my C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid (well, actually, I unplugged the lamp over by my workshop by accident – the plugs look the same, and they’re plugged into the same outlet. Maybe someday, I’ll get a dedicated charger installed – one of the ones that draws about as much power as a clothes drier – about 240V, 30amps. Then, the car would only take less than three hours to charge fully, instead of the seven hours or so it takes plugging it into a normal outlet. In any case, I unplugged my car). I stow the charging cable in the storage compartment under the 2nd row floor mat. My wife’s C-Max Hybrid has the same compartment, but she uses it to stow her e-book reader when she goes into stores. I don’t think anyone is going to try to steal it, but she likes that added security of knowing that its completely hidden from the outside.

Foot on the brake, Intelligent Access Key in my pocket, got my wallet and briefcase, coffee. Ok, I’m ready to go. Push the button to start the car (nothing seems to happen, but that’s normal – the gas engine doesn’t start until its needed). Backing out of the driveway, I’m glad I opted for the rear camera and reverse sensing on my car – one of the kids left their tricycle practically under my bumper. There’s no way I could have seen it, you know, other than making sure the driveway was clear before I started driving (oops).

I leave the Electric Vehicle mode on Auto for now – I’ll probably go out to lunch later today, and I like to use as little gas as I can when I’m driving in town. On EV Auto, my C-Max Energi just runs like a regular C-Max Hybrid, like my wife’s car. By the time I get to the highway, my car is still nearly full on battery – I try to accelerate gently, to keep from engaging the gas engine as much as possible, but I also try to brake gently, taking maximum advantage of the Regenerative Braking.

I like to use the EV monitor, one of the options that can be displayed to the left of the speedometer, to keep tabs on where I’m drawing power from. There’s a little bar that shows how much power I’m drawing from the electric motor, and a bigger bar beside it that shows how much power I’m drawing from the gas motor. When I’m accelerating, its really easy to keep an eye on how much I’m pushing the electric motor, and I try to keep it from tapping into gas power as much as possible. Sometimes it surprises me though – the Atkinson Cycle engine allows for an incredibly smooth transition between gas and electric power, so much so that most time, I can’t actually feel when the gas engine is engaged (I can hear it somewhat, if the windows are down, or if I’m really putting the pedal to the metal), but with the EV Monitor, I can see it if is engaged, and if so, what the balance of power looks like between the two halves of the engine.

I usually set the cruise control to about 62 MPH or so on the highway – I’ve found that when I’m on flat ground, this seems to minimize the gas usage. On inclines, or if I push it up to about 68 MPH or so, it increases the gas use, but I’m still getting completely reasonable gas mileage.

I get to work, and just for the parking deck, I go ahead and put the car in EV On mode, which tells the car not to engage the gasoline engine at all – at least, until the battery runs out. The car tells me that the battery still has about 18 miles left until the battery runs out (which is good – the max is about 20 miles in Electric Vehicle mode on a full charge). I think that should be enough to get me to a parking spot.

Off to work.


Finally, lunchtime! I head out with some co-workers, we all jump in the car, I make sure that EV On is set, turn the AC up to max, and we get going. The EV monitor is telling me that the climate control system is contributing to the overall power draw, but I can’t tell any difference in performace, either of the AC system or accelerative power. That’s more than I can say of my last car – a little foreign sub-compact; I remember in that car, when I had the AC turned up, if I tried to accelerate, the fan speed would dip. And that’s an all-gas powered car. Can you say “Upgrade!” Plus, since I opted for the dual zone climate controls, I can have the temperature set to 60 degrees while my co-worker sets his side to a balmy 72.

“So, how much pick-up does this thing have?” one of my co-workers asks.

“Like, acceleration?” I’m having a really hard time keeping from acting like a 17-year-old and just gunning it. “It’s pretty good. Even when you’re running it just as an electric vehicle, it’s got a good amount of power.”

“Really? I’ve got a different kind of hybrid, and I feel like it really stinks at getting up to speed quickly.”

Alright, I can’t resist. I pull out into the passing lane and put my foot to the floor. So what if the restaurant is only a quarter-mile away! Driving this thing is fun!

“Oh jeez!” my co-worker says. “I guess it’s no harder to get a ticket in this thing than in any other car!”

We park, we eat lunch, we drive back, and then, unfortunately, we return to the daily grind.

Finally, time to go home!

On the way home, I like to maximize the amount of electric power I use, since it’s a lot cheaper for me to charge my car at home instead of going to the gas station, so I make sure its set to EV On again, and head out. I’ve got 15 miles left on the charge now, and my house is about 13 miles away. Perfect.

One thing that’s really nice about my C-Max Energi is that even if I do run it entirely out of electric power, it still has the gas engine providing backup power, and it’ll kick in automatically, so I don’t have to worry about keeping my eye on it. No Range Anxiety for me! I also appreciate that I can get all the way up to highway speeds – roughly 60 MPH – on just electric power alone.

One thing I like to do, though, is see how much I can recharge the brakes on the way home. The off-ramp to my neighborhood is really long, so I usually brake as slowly as possible down that hill. There was one time I was able to nearly refill the battery on that hill alone. I always check the Trip Summary screen when I get home – the screen that shows up after I turn the car off. It’s got all kinds of statistics about my driving, including how much gas I used, miles driven on electric power alone. My favorite is the Regenerative Braking score, which tells you how well you recovered energy while braking. My current best is 96%, but I’ll beat that score. Someday, I’ll get 100%.

I’m home. I get to go into the house, loosen my tie, relax on the couch (if only they were heated leather seats like in my car). Ah. This is nice.

My wife pulls in the garage. Her C-Max Hybrid is full of loud children. I can hear them from the living room. She gives me that look – she needs a break from the kids. “You’re taking them to soccer practice.” I jumped up off the couch, we exchange keys. The kids load their soccer stuff into the the trunk of the car – my wife’s Hybrid has a little more trunk space than my C-Max Energi, because of how much space the lithium-ion batteries take up, but it’s not a huge difference.

She has a normal key (unlike my Intelligent Access Key), and it was disconcerting the first few times I drove her car, because when I turn the key to start it, it seems like nothing happens, but again, it’s just that the engine won’t engage until it’s needed.

One thing I do really like about her car is that the monitor on the right side of the speedometer has something called Efficiency Leaves, which grow and spread the more efficiently you drive. It’s a nice reminder that my driving habits do have an impact on the outside world. The left side has the same EV Monitor that my Energi does, showing the draw on electric power, gas power, and how much battery I’ve got left. The regenerative braking seems a little less noticeable on her Hybrid – but it might just be my imagination.

Once soccer is over, we all pile back in the car and head home. I’m really tired now – my feet feel like they’re encased in lead blocks. I trudge up the stairs, and I sit down on the bed to take off my shoes and socks. My wife asks me if I remembered to plug in my car. Ugh. I re-tie my shoe, trudge back down the stairs, and plug my car in (at least that’s easy, even if climbing the stairs seems like a daunting task).

Finally, time to sleep!