With news that the Environmental Protection Agency has certified the Ford C-Max Energi
with an all-electric driving range of 21 miles and a total range of 620, Ford appears to be closing in on its chief rival in the plug-in hybrid category, the Toyota Prius
The Prius Plug-in logs 11 miles per electric charge and 540 more gas-burning miles. While it lags slightly behind the C-Max Energi, it has one distinct advantage over the Ford vehicle: the Prius name. Toyota's Prius fleet, which also includes the smaller Prius c
and larger Prius V
models, is on pace to sell a record 225,000 vehicles this year, according to Hybridcars.com
Plug-in hybrids erase the range anxiety that has so far tempered enthusiasm for electric vehicles. They rely on an electric charge in the initial phases of an outing, typically a commute, before a gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the battery or power the car until it can be fully recharged at an electrical outlet.
The other plug-in hybrids currently on sale are a mixed bag in terms of mileage and pricing.
The Fisker Karma, created by former BMW
and Aston Martin
designer Henrik Fisker, gets 32 EPA-rated electric miles per charge at a cost of $96,000. The car, which has been plagued by recalls, has a distinct claim to fame: Its gasoline engine only charges the battery and never powers the car.
Two new plug-in hybrids are on the horizon, neither of which has received an EPA rating yet. The Fusion
Energi will go into production in December and hit showrooms in February; Ford hopes to sell 45,000 vehicles next year. Ford has not announced any mileage estimates. The Honda Accord
Plug-in, with an estimated 10 to 15 miles of electric range
, will go on sale in January.
But plug-in hybrid sales represent just a fraction of the automotive market, and though the Prius Plug-in is the one to beat out, it has performed below Toyota's expectations. This year just 8,400 vehicles were sold in Japan -- 20 percent fewer than the company's target. As a whole, plug-in hybrids represent less than 0.5 percent of the total U.S. market.