What are they? Ford showed plug-in hybrid and full-hybrid versions of its upcoming C-Max minivan at the Detroit Auto Show. Both will have seating for five, rather than the seven passenger capacity of conventionally-powered C-Max models.
The C-Max Energi will be the first plug-in hybrid from the carmaker, and Ford claims it will charge overnight using a 120-volt outlet and will have a range of more than 500 miles, more than the Chevrolet Volt.
The full-hybrid C-Max will be capable of speeds greater than 47 mph on electric power, according to Ford. Its claimed fuel economy is better than the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which returned 34 mpg overall in our testing and is EPA rated at 41 mpg in city driving.
What is new or notable? Both models will use lithium ion batteries, which Ford says are lighter and smaller than the nickel-metal-hydride batteries used in most current hybrids.
CR's take: Another step in the One Ford global plan. This Focus based compact microvan may be have brilliant packaging and Euro-driving dynamics, but it may be a challenge to sell to American drivers who favor size and shy away from minivans. Of course, if gas prices climb, C Max would be well-placed to offer an alternative to larger, more familiar vehicles. Hybrid buyers have never had the chance to buy a fuel-efficient minivan, and this may be their closest chance yet. The ability to carry seven for over 40 miles on less than a gallon of fuel sounds promising.
When will they be available? Both models are due in 2012.