Ford C-MAX Hybrid

Ford has decided not to build its seven-passenger gas-only C-MAX minivan for the U.S. market. Instead, the automaker will build a five-passenger C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid.

Ford also announced Thursday that it will triple production of its electric vehicles through 2013. The automaker says it is giving customers who want fuel-efficient vehicles new hybrid and plug-in hybrid options. The automaker is planning to sell five electric vehicles in North America by 2012, including the Transit Connect Electric, which is currently being sold, and the Focus Electric, which debuts this year. The C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid and C-MAX Hybrid will be followed by another next-generation hybrid in 2012.

"We know that not all of these are going to be right for individual customers, so if a customer has got a lot of mixed highway-city driving the Hybrid will be a great option,” Sherif Marakby, Ford’s director of electrification programs and engineering, said during an online presentation. “If you have a short distance that you’re driving everyday and you want to drive on mostly electric and then on the weekend you have a long drive a plug-in hybrid or the CMAX Energi would be ideal, and then if you just want to be gas-free completely you have a battery electric."

Ford’s new C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid will be a competitor to General Motor's Chevrolet Volt, but will have a much longer total driving range, CNNMoney reports. The Volt gets an estimated driving range of up to 379 miles.

Autoblog Green says the C-MAX Hybrid is “expected to boast better than 41 miles per gallon on the highway, while the plug-in Energi promises to boast 500 miles of driving range from its battery and gasoline engine combined, along with better fuel efficiency than the Chevrolet Volt.”

Ford’s new vehicles will have four regular doors and a hatchback instead of sliding doors that are typical on a minivan. The hybrid-only C-MAX doesn’t have a direct competitor at the moment, but is likely to compete with the Toyota Prius, and is comparable in size to the Mazda5 small minivan, which doesn’t have a hybrid option.

Ford’s new C-MAX Energi will come with a 240-volt charging system, and Ford says it will be able to “fully recharge faster than Chevy Volt and is being engineered to deliver more overall driving range than any other plug-in or extended range electric vehicle.”

Ford says production of the new hybrids will add more than 220 jobs in Michigan. Production of the new C-MAX hybrids is scheduled to start in 2012. The C-MAX hybrid and C-MAX Energi minivans will be built alongside the 2012 Ford Focus and Focus Electric at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. Ford has not announced pricing for its new C-MAX hybrid vehicles.

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