Chicago Auto Show – Ford Is Aiming at the Prius, Too

Ford actually brought several shades of green to Chicago this year, what with the Fusion, the CMAX, and the electric Focus all hanging around the display in separate corners, and an electric Transit Connect lurking in the back. They also had a series of rather striking models who looked great in their flowing white outfits but weren’t quite sure how to answer any of our questions. Not to be dissuaded from asking, we eventually managed to get a press kit out of the staff at the desk and set about seeing which trunks and hoods we could open.

Focusing on Electric Mobility

Yeah, that’s a terrible pun. Let’s move on to talk about the actual car, which Ford likes to call “gas-free.” Ford claims it is “expected” to have an MPGe rating and a solar recharging option (yes!!), and that it’s supposed to charge faster than the Nissan Leaf. It will also seat five (although at least one person in back had better be somewhat tiny), and of course it has zero emissions.

In order to get the quicker charging (3-4 hours, which does sound pretty decent), one does of course have to buy the Ford 240V charging station. With the charging station, however, and Ford’s mobile app, a number of what Ford calls “key functions” (including programming the charge settings) can be handled remotely; I can’t decide if that’s neat, or just another opportunity for someone to break into your car.

We couldn’t open the hood on the Focus electric, or the trunk. We did get the back doors open and the seats folded down in case there was some kind of pass-through for larger pieces of luggage or furniture. I will let the picture below speak for itself:

Yeaaah. So there’s that small inconvenience. No word on range yet. Moving on…

Fusion of Electric and Gasoline, Apparently

Or something. Apparently there will be a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a conventional gas-powered version available for the Fusion this year. The plug-in version of the hybrid is also supposed to get 100 MPGe (alongside the Focus up there), according to Ford, but we’ll see when it gets here (not until fall).

The hybrid version will go up to 62mph on battery power alone. It makes good use of its batteries, too, supposedly getting 47mpg in the city (due to the electric assist) and 44mpg on the highway. That may seem counterintuitive, but remember that battery-electric vehicles use very little energy when moving slowly and none at all when stopped (unless you’ve got something on inside the car, like the heater or the radio). So points to Ford if the Fusion works as advertised – that seems like a pretty good combination of batteries and combustion.

Of course, Ford didn’t get everything right. The Fusion hybrid has the same problem that nearly every other hybrid has. Trunk space is limited and while the seats do actually fold down, there’s that line of batteries limiting the pass-through to the middle of the car. At least it has more storage space than the Focus. See?

Which brings us to…


…I have no puns for this one. The CMAX is Ford’s answer to the Prius v, supposedly having better fuel economy and going faster on battery power only than any other hybrid. The plug-in version is also supposed to have a total range of 500 miles (that’s very likely better than you get in your ICE-powered car).

It still looks like a van, though. I mean, that’s a straight-out minivan. And a minivan can seem like the most reasonable thing in the world to own – it’s comfortable and roomy, it has tons of storage space, it’s big and heavy enough to be a comforting cocoon in case of a crash, and so on. The problem with a minivan, whether it has a turbo V6 engine and 300 HP or a super awesome hybrid system giving you 500 miles per tank, is that it’s a minivan.

Before you ask, the Prius v did not scream “minivan” at me nearly as loudly as the CMAX did.

Commercially Electric Transit

Ford’s Transit Connect has been around for years. It’s imported as a passenger vehicle and converted into a cargo van – they can be bought with or without seats, with lots of storage space on the floor or nearly none at all. They’re somewhat iconic of Ford’s commercial vehicles.

And, of course, the electric version has been puttering around quietly for a couple years now. We poked around display model this year, opening all the doors and trying to pry up the hood to see what was underneath. (We think we know where the hood is supposed to go, but the little lever had actually been removed. There were dangly wire-feeling bits and everything.)

You may have gotten the impression that I’m not particularly fond of vans; the electric Transit Connect is still a van. It does get 62 MPGe, and Ford claims a range of 80 miles. The EPA rated it 56 miles, though, which explains the numbering on the one thing I really love about the Transit Connect:

That is a range-o-meter. That’s not an electric display, that’s not a touch screen, that’s not a delicate electrical component that gets fiddled with and poked at and that’ll probably start going bad after four or five years. That’s a very familiar-looking dial with a little orange needle. It’s magnificent. It also only goes up to 60 (as per the EPA rating) although there is space on the dial to go up to 80 (Ford’s rating).

Questions or opinions? Let us know in the comments below the gallery.

Source | Images: Chicago Auto Show.

Charis Michelsen

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.