Carmakers rushing to introduce “the button” on their plug-in hybrid cars

Article by Christian A., on February 17, 2012

“The button” is one of the many ways that makers of plug-in hybrids use to outperform its rivals. What consumers typically look at when choosing a model are combined fuel economy, the electric range, acceleration and recharging time. If a plug-in hybrid has “the button,” the driver can choose to keep the vehicle in electric mode or block it from switching to battery power.

This feature is available as standard on the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera and Ford C-Max Energi, as well as plug-in hybrid versions of the redesigned Ford Fusion and Honda Accord. The Ampera will start selling later this month, while the Ford and Honda models will arrive in dealerships later this year. This year in Europe is the targeted sale date of a Volvo V60 powered by a diesel-electric plug-in hybrid.

This model has “the button." According to Mark Reuss, General Motors' North American president, he hopes that this feature will be offered on the Chevrolet Volt. Reuss explained that in the U.S., GM wasn’t allowed to offer "the button" on the Volt because of an EPA issue for determining fuel economy when the car was certified. No explanation was provided. All its models in Europe have "the button." If a plug-in hybrid doesn’t have “the button,” its computer determines when the powertrain would operate in pure electric mode, hybrid or depend on gasoline.

This hands-off system studies vehicle speed, the driver's driving style, as well as other factors to find the best mode for optimum fuel economy and acceleration. With "the button," the driver could choose to use all electric in the city while he uses gasoline on the highway. When the electric charge runs low at a certain point, the system instantly switches to the hybrid or gasoline mode.

This suggests that fuel economy may be improved by “the button” since the driver could keep the vehicle in gasoline mode during highway trips and go pure electric in the city. When asked about the question of whether overall miles per gallon numbers will increase, GM said that it will depend on the driver's skills at boosting mpg. GM has said that it won’t be promoting "the button" as a way to boost fuel economy.

In terms of innovations in the areas of electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies, Ford has been consistently one of the leaders. In fact, with regards to these technologies, Ford already holds around 500 patents and has applied for several hundreds more. These technologies are part of what underpins the C-MAX hybrid vehicles, as supported by Ford’s 20 years of research and innovation into the software and hardware behind the C-MAX. When launched, the new C-MAX hybrids will be Ford’s first dedicated hybrid vehicle line as well as the first multi-activity vehicle (MAV) line in North America.

Amy Machesney, C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi Marketing manager, remarked that Ford designed the C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi to cater to customers seeking 'plus-up' as well as those who want to optimize their hybrid vehicle experience. She quipped that target customers include those eco-conscious consumers and those who may have already driven a hybrid vehicle. Machesney added that these customers are now ready to take their hybrid experience to a new level with the C-MAX, which boasts of sophisticated style, extra versatility and better performance.

The new Ford C-MAX Hybrid is expected to lead its class in terms of fuel efficiency. It is also expected to surpass Toyota Prius v in both city and highway MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent). Meanwhile, Ford expects the new C-MAX Energi to deliver fuel economy levels -- in electric mode – better than the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, with an overall driving range of more than 500 miles. Splendidly, these new C-MAX models are able to deliver astounding fuel efficiency and range figures without sacrificing performance.

Topics: plug-in hybrid

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