Monday, October 7, 2013

How to Save Money & the Planet with a Hybrid Car

This last weekend, I had a great opportunity to travel to meet other bloggers and check out Ford's first hybrid-only line of cars in North America ("hybrid only" meaning they are only available as hybrids - they don't come with regular gas engine options), the C-Max and C-Max Energi.

Here's what it looks like:

I currently drive a Ford Focus Electric but the car we had before that was much larger vehicle. We bought the big vehicle to accommodate more children because we frequently drove places with my niece and nephew. A couple years after they moved far away we downsized our car - and our gas bill! - by moving to the electric Focus. While it meets my needs, it's always great to have more room - and the C-Max has it. 
(this is a photo of the cargo space for the C-Max Energi - the plug in hybrid. The traditional hybrid C-Max  does not have this battery and has this space available for even more cargo room!
Not only is the cargo room pretty sizable on its own, but the back seats also fold down flat if extra hauling room is needed - love that! 

Another thing I loved about the car is how far it would go. Me and my driving partner, Jamie of The Denver Housewife drove all around the San Francisco area scrambling to win at Instagram bingo. 

Good news: We Won!! (seriously. I'm all about winning. Luckily Jamie was, too!)

Once we were the sure Instagram Bingo champions, we started heading toward the coast. We went down to Santa Cruz then over to Salinas to get In-N-Out and then west to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. 
(PS the aquarium is amazing. I highly recommend it if you're ever in the area)

The aquarium was great but we were a little late arriving because the in-car navigation system took us,  shall we say, along a a "creative" route. My best guess is that this is mostly due to the navigation system being built on MapQuest technology. The good news is that if you have a smart phone with a navigation program that you like, you can run that through your phone instead and broadcast the voice through the speakers in the car (through either the audio port or blue-tooth). I have to admit: this is my personal navigation compromise with Ford cars using MySync - including my car. Because honestly? Sometimes MapQuest just gives weird directions.

After the aquarium, we went to Carmel and stayed in the most luxurious hotel I've ever been to in my whole life. By the time we arrived at the hotel in Carmel, we had driven more than 130  miles and the fuel gauge barely showed a dent! Impressive!

The great gas mileage is due in large part to the car's regenerative braking capabilities. What is regenerative braking? It means any time we used the brake, whether it was to stop at a light or to control speed going down hill, the car was able to gather energy from the braking system to charge the battery. This offsets how much gas is needed when driving because the car can tap into its own battery reserve. Pretty cool!

The car even coaches you to tell you how well you are doing by rewarding you with "efficiency leaves." I'm pretty proud of the nice little "efficiency forest" I grew by driving and braking efficiently.

The next morning, we were able to try the plug-in version: The C-Max Energi.

The Energi is different than the traditional hybrid C-Max because it plugs in (just like my car!). See that round circle near the driver's door? That's the charging port.

The battery in the Energi holds up to 22 miles worth of electric charge. So if all you are doing is small trips, you could keep the Energi in EV-only mode and not use a single drop of gas. Just plug it into the regular wall outlet in your home to recharge it. Which is great because electricity is WAY less expensive than gas.

We drove about 90 highway miles in the C-Max Energi so we kept it in auto mode in order to get maximum fuel efficiency. This lets the car decide when to pull power from the battery and when to pull power from the gas engine. Of course, it still has the same regenerative braking capabilities of the traditional hybrid so when we drove down the mountain, just regular use of the brakes was enough to charge the battery almost back to full capacity.

If you don't want to drive it in auto mode, you can also drive in EV now (uses just electric battery - will switch to gas later) or in EV later (save your electric miles for later when you'll need them) modes.

Other things I love about the car:
It is SO roomy. Not only does it have the great cargo space mentioned earlier but the seating has great room as well. Riding as a front seat passenger, I had plenty of room to stretch out my legs and cross them without being squished.

The back seat is roomy, too. I could easily fit 3 car seats back here. I sat in the back to take some photos and found it rather comfortable.

It's the little things:
Little details can take a nice car to a wow car. Some of my favorite creature comforts in the C-max include:

  • An electric outlet in the back seat - not a car charger outlet. A regular 3 prong outlet (see above).
  • My Sync system lets you talk on the phone through the car. The car can even read your text messages to you. 
  • Lots of stereo options from CD, radio, Sirius or your phone. You can play music from the your phone or other music playing device via USB or blue-tooth. This means you can take your favorite Pandora station or pre-downloaded play list with you wherever you go. 
  • Steering wheel controls let you do everything from adjust volume, skip songs (even in Pandora), answer and hang up calls, change your display and more.

Saving Money & the Planet
Overall, I was really impressed - especially with the C-Max Energi. In addition to LOVING that I can drive around town to do errands without a drop of gas (this saves both money and the planet. Reduced carbon footprint? Awesome!), I felt the overall drive experience of the Energi was even smoother than the regular C-Max. Energi won as my favorite of the two hands down.

Even though I'm not ready to trade in my Ford Focus Electric, I did call my husband and tell him that if we ever needed to own a second car (we are currently a one car family) that I think I'd want a C-Max Energi. It has a lot of the features we already love about our all-electric car (namely the HUGE savings on operational costs since electricity is so much less expensive per mile than gas) but it also has the versatility to hold lots of cargo and take long trips. That makes it perfect for going camping or for driving long distances to visit family out of state.

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Disclosure: I was selected for this opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, however all content and opinions expressed here are my own. This means my trip to California and this post were sponsored by Ford and Clever Girls. I was compensated for my time spent traveling and writing this review. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. Please see my full review policy here.


  1. I have a Ford Explorer that I LOOOOOVE. I'm excited to see this!


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