With new Ford EVs, plug-in electric vehicle market heats up

The Chevy Volt went on sale less than a month ago and is already getting some competition.
Written by Tuan Nguyen, Contributor

The Chevrolet Volt went on sale less than a month ago and is already getting some competition.

At the North American International Auto Show, Ford Motor Company unveiled the C-MAX Energi, the company's first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and announced that the model was slated to enter the North American market in 2012.

With a charged up battery and a full tank, the five-passenger vehicle boasts a driving range of 500 miles, more than any other in its class. It also comes with a battery system they claim offers better fuel economy than the Chevy Volt along with the MyFord mobile system, which gives owners wireless access to some of the car's functions

Ford also introduced the C-Max, a straightforward hybrid electric vehicle, with a targeted fuel efficiency of 47 mpg, which would make it the most fuel efficient sedan in the country. Currently, the Ford Fusion hybrid holds that title by going 41 miles to the gallon.

The Detroit Auto Show had kicked off on Monday with judges anointing the Chevy Volt 2011 North American car of the year. Ford's announcement on the same day just goes to show that the automaker isn't simply going to yield the spotlight to General Motors, its American rival.

As a segment of  the automotive industry starts to move in the direction of plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles, the jostling between Ford and GM has also lead to some interesting alliances. Back in March, Ford laid some of the groundwork for its foray into the EV market by partnering with Microsoft to enable drivers to use Hohm, an internet-based energy management application. Microsoft's Hohm aids EV owners by helping them determine the most efficient and cost-cutting ways to recharge their vehicles.GM would later team up with internet search giant Google to offer turn-by-turn navigation and other location based services for Chevy Volt owners.

But let's not forget about Toyota. The company took a major black eye in the public relations department last year when a malfunctioning gas pedal forced it to recall 7 millions vehicles and drew a 32.4 million dollar fine from the government. Toyota's president, Akio Toyoda, arrived at the Detroit Auto Show hoping to make inroads toward restoring the company's reputation.

A report in the New York Times describes a scene at the show where the company president demonstrates his deep commitment to regaining the American public's trust:

To a small group of reporters who interviewed him later Monday with the help of a translator, Mr. Toyoda carefully explained how Toyota’s employees would put their “heart and soul” into every vehicle, “just as mothers make rice bowls for their children.” He held up plastic-wrapped meals that he compared with American sandwiches.

He also introduced three new variations of their Prius Hybrid, including, yup, a plug-in hybrid electric version. So while the Chevy Volt is enjoying it's time in the limelight, for how long is anybody's guess.

Photo: Ford

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