Welcome to Pop The Hood, a weekly autoMedia.com feature that examines the industry’s latest innovations and what makes them tick. Recently, we’ve poked around inside the SRT Viper, Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Porsche 918 Spyder (full list below). Today let’s take a look into several future technologies inside a game-changing model of efficiency: the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid.
Ford is riding high as we draw nearer to the release of their new 2013 C-MAX Hybrid that will hit dealerships later this year, and with good reason. The C-MAX has been EPA rated at 47 overall mpg and will cost $25,200 MSRP, both significantly better than the Hybrid King itself, the Toyota Prius v. Producing a car with that efficiency for that price is a feat in and of itself, so how did Ford do it?
As with most things, there is no one silver bullet. Ford used a collection of new technologies and innovative twists that combine to make the C-MAX an eco-friendly leader. Sure, there’s regenerative braking, an electric motor and even exhaust recapturing that turns heat into electricity, but we’re more interested in the tiny little details that end up making a big difference.
Let’s start with the batteries, which are obviously a vital part of the C-MAX hybrid drivetrain. They can be recharged with energy from the brakes and exhaust, but they don’t just take from the car – they also find ways to give back. Ford opted to use advanced lithium-ion batteries in the C-MAX, about 25-30% smaller and 50% lighter than the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries in most hybrids. Batteries are typically very heavy, robbing hybrids of their efficiency potential. But using lighter batteries, and fewer of them, helps keep the C-MAX curb weight around 3,600 lbs. and pushes the MPG rating ever higher.
Ford has been among the early adopters of low-displacement engines in search of greater efficiency, and they may have outdone themselves with the 2.0L DOHC inline-four in the C-MAX Hybrid. The engine uses fuel injection, but not just any fuel injection; sequential multi-point electric injection that operates each injector nozzle independently at the perfect moment, so fuel won’t condense or collect. This eliminates the need to use heavy, heat-conducting materials in the intake manifold, and Ford can save further weight. Pretty clever stuff.
Ford also developed their own intake variable camshaft timing (iVCT) system, rather than conventional variable valve timing (VVT), in order to control oil flow to the camshafts more efficiently. This creates a broad torque curve and helps produce more power.
When it’s all said and done, C-MAX drivers will have 141 horsepower and 129 lb.-ft of torque (at 4,000 rpm) from the feisty inline-four. The electric motor hasn’t yet been rated for power, but Ford expects it to bring the total number to around 188 hp.
Finally, the mad scientists at Ford took to the transmission. Instead of sourcing out a CVT, they spent three years creating the HF35 eCVT hybrid powersplit transaxle that will also make appearances in the upcoming Fusion PHEV and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. On the C-MAX Hybrid, the transmission makes it possible to drive at speeds up to 85 mph on electric power alone. How? Instead of a CVT that uses pulleys attached to the engine and wheels, the eCVT uses a system of electric motors that constantly evaluate and communicate with the engine and wheels to determine the most efficient power strategy. It could be a game-changer as automakers race to improve their MPG, and we’re glad to see that the eCVT will live on in other Ford models.
Hopefully, the eCVT will spawn better versions from both Ford and their competitors in the future – much like the C-MAX Hybrid itself.
Come back next week for another inside look at a cutting-edge car!
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