Ford has gathered data suggesting that its plug-in hybrid drivers plug in to the electrical grid more frequently than battery-electric vehicle drivers do.

The Michigan based automaker has found that customers of its Ford C-Max Energi and its Ford Fusion Energi—the company’s two most recently-produced plug-in hybrids—use the electrical grid to power their vehicles more frequently than owners of the Ford Focus Electric do.

Since plug-in hybrids are able to switch from pure-electric mode to gasoline-only mode, this finding may be surprising on some levels.

“What we are finding—and this is a little bit counterintuitive—is that our plug-in customers appear to be charging more often than our battery-electric customers,” said Mike Tinskey, Ford’s global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure. “And that was a bit surprising, because you think that with a bigger battery, that those customers are going to want to top it off because they have no gasoline to back them up. But we’re finding the opposite.”

One possible explanation could lie in what Tinskey terms “gamification:” the phenomenon that occurs when plug-in hybrid customers minimize the amount of gasoline they use by turning it into a kind of game or self-generated goal.

“What we think is happening—and this is all early learning—is that the ‘gamification’ of not using gas is happening relative to plug-in hybrids,” Tinskey said.

Focus Electric
Pictured above is the Ford Focus Electric, the Michigan-based company’s battery-electric vehicle that can drive up to 76 miles before having to recharge. Consumers of the Ford Focus Electric are plugging in less frequently than consumers of plug-in hybrids like the Ford C-Max Energi and the Ford Fusion Energi. Credit: NAFTC.

Ford used its MyFord Mobile smartphone app to gather the relevant data. The app, which was originally produced for the Ford Focus Electric in 2012, was recently adapted to include Ford’s plug-in hybrids, the Ford C-Max Energi and the Ford Fusion Energi.

The Ford Focus Electric has an EPA-certified driving range of 76 miles, which means that under ideal conditions, the car can travel that far before being recharged.

Both the Ford C-Max Energi* and the Ford Fusion Energi** are estimated to be able to travel up to 620 miles on a combination of a single full electric charge and one tank full of gas. The EPA has listed the pure-electric ranges of both at a distance of 21 miles.

If Tinskey is right, and plug-in hybrid consumers are attempting to minimize the amount of gasoline they use through gaming the system, then it makes perfect sense that owners of plug-in hybrids would plug in more often to the electrical grid than owners of battery-electric vehicles.

If an owner of a C-Max Energi or Fusion Energi wanted to avoid buying gasoline entirely, they would have to plug in their vehicles at least three times as often as owners of the Ford Focus Electric, based purely on the vehicles’ EPA-certified driving ranges.

Tinskey also remarked on the important role education plays in ensuring that consumers are satisfied with their vehicle purchases.

“When you talk about the different technologies like plug-in hybrid, hybrid, and full-battery electric, we really need to work on letting the customer know [what] those technologies do and making sure the customer chooses the right technology,” he said.

*EPA-estimated rating of 108 city/92 hwy/100 combined mpg, 14-gallon fuel tank; 21 miles electric.
**EPA-estimated rating of 44 city/41 hwy/43 combined mpg, 14-gallon fuel tank; 21 miles electric.




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