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Ford's Response to Prius and Volt

1. The all-electric range is very limited. The Environmental Protection Agency certified this car for 11 miles of combined electric/gasoline range in terms of exhausting the part of the battery that was "filled" from the wall plug. Of those 11 miles, only six are on pure electricity. Obviously, at that point the gasoline engine kicks in and you can drive hundreds of miles.

2. If you accelerate more than moderately, or drive faster than, say, somewhere between 50 and 65 miles per hour, the gasoline engine will kick in.

These two Ford models handily beat the Toyota Prius plug-in on both of these accounts, as exemplified by these two facts:

1. The Ford C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi can go at least 20 miles on pure wall-plug electricity before the gasoline engine kicks in.

2. Equally important, the Ford models also have an "EV only" button that keeps the car from turning on the gasoline engine if you accelerate hard or drive fast.

There is a limitation here, though, and that is you only have 70 kW at your disposal in terms of power, so you are not going to get the full power, which will limit your acceleration and the top speed to 85 miles per hour.

The journalistic corps, including me, has not yet been given the opportunity to drive these two models yet -- this will happen in November and February -- but based on this technical information I can say that it is crystal clear that the two Ford plug-in hybrids are significantly more capable than the Toyota Prius plug-ins.

The Toyota Prius plug-in starts at $32,760, or about $1,000 less than the Ford. Both of them are eligible for a $3,750 Federal tax credit and some state incentives, such as $1,500 in California.

What about the Chevrolet Volt?

The Ford plug-in hybrid models may be more capable than the Toyota Prius plug-in, but they pale in comparison to the Chevrolet Volt. There are two reasons for this:

1. The Volt's battery is much larger, enabling the Volt to go 38 miles before the gasoline engine kicks in. That's almost twice as much as the Ford models.
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