Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ford C Max Versus Toyota Prius

My friend Tom who lives in the wine country of Sonoma County is looking for a new car.  Tom wrote the following in an email to me earlier this week:

“My ML320 (Mercedes SUV) has, at 290,000 miles and 14 years, been given "limited time to live" diagnosis by my friendly mechanic. He's a straight shooter so I'm inclined to get rid of it and buy something fun and invigorating. Lacking money for a Ferrari or other economical dream car, I happened to see a Ford C-Max hybrid (not the unreleased plug-in) and it seems to be a little nicer version of a Prius. It might be fun and patriotic for me to buy an "American Made" car.   Lithium-Ion battery with a 10 year/150,000 mile warranty on the battery and all hybrid equipment - so if it doesn't spontaneously catch on fire, might be OK.
So I recall and read back in your blog that you are reasonably OK on Prius. Have you further info on that or the Ford C-Max?”

I checked into the C Max for Tom and found out that C Max Hybrid (non-plugin) is priced between the base Prius and the Prius V.  I told Tom he would not be paying extra nor saving money.  Interesting the C Max has 1.6 kilowatt hours of lithium ion batteries and the Prii still use nickel metal hydride batteries.  Ford buys their batteries from Sanyo and the battery pack is air cooled for control of thermal stability of the pack.  Since Tom lives in a wooded area of the county and it is fairly close to coast the thermal stability of the air cooled batteries may be fine.  If Tom lived in Phoenix Arizona I may told him watch out for air cooled lithium ion battery packs as there are several cases of the Nissan Leaf which is also has an air cooled battery pack losing range and the batteries degrading rapidly.  The C Max is no falling Leaf and is a far better vehicle with a real engine and real range but both Ford and Nissan did choose air cooling for thermal control of the batteries.  Here is a review of the C Max by Car and Driver

Tom prefers the styling of the C Max and far prefers the instrument panel on the C Max.  Here is Tom’s response to my question of why not but a Prius?  “I like the looks, especially inside, of the C-Max more than the Prius. The Prius dash is too nerdy for me - like driving an ATM.”   Tom is referring to ATMs as automatic teller machines not as Audi TT Machine. 

Ford chose the lithium ion pack over the nickel metal hydride based on it being lighter and more compact.  I also believe given the glut of lithium ion battery manufacturing capacity worldwide Ford got a bloody good deal on these batteries and probably is not paying much of a premium for the 1.6 kilowatt hour battery pack.  The cost premium to Ford may be as low as a couple hundred dollars so why not save the mass and space and offer prospective buyers like Tom this advantage.  The C max is estimated to achieve 47 MPG which is lower than the base Prius but higher than the Prius V.  It seems like Ford has a stylish vehicle inside and out that is positioned between the base Prius and the Prius V and they might have a winner in the C Max.  I hope for Tom that FORD now stands for Fun Optimal Reliable Driver and not Fix Or Repair Daily.  


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