Ford’s Plug-In Hybrid Hits a New Record

2017 Ford Fusion
Courtesy of Ford

The 2017 Fusion Energi, Ford Motor’s plug-in hybrid, can travel 610 miles on a full tank of gas and battery charge, according to U.S EPA estimates, a 60-mile increase from the previous year’s model.

The automaker says the boost in total mileage makes the Fusion Energi the highest combined range of all plug-in hybrids sold in the United States. The 2016 model year has an estimated 550 miles range with the battery contributing about 20 miles of that total, and gas providing the rest, according to the EPA’s The 2017 model has 21-mile battery range. If there is gas in the tank, the car will then operate for about a mile using both battery and gas. After that, the gas engine kicks in for another 588 miles of range, according to EPA estimates.

Ford was able to push the total range higher by updating the vehicle’s powertrain software and regenerative braking systems, which recycles energy to the battery otherwise lost when drivers hit the brakes. Fusion Energi is one of six Ford electrified vehicles, including the Ford Fusion Hybrid, C-MAX Hybrid, C-MAX Energi, Focus Electric, and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

What Ford will look like in 2021:

While the total range is perhaps welcome—especially for drivers who can’t stand stopping to refuel—it doesn’t mean the plug-in hybrid saves drivers the most money per mile. As a rule, plug-in hybrids with greater battery range help save drivers more on gas.

For instance, the 2017 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and Ford’s Fusion Energi plug-in have the same combined city-highway fuel economy of 42 miles per gallon for gasoline only. However, the Volt has much greater battery range—53 miles. Even though the Volt has a lower total range of 420 miles, the higher electric range helps reduce the per mile cost. In other words, total range is just one metric worth evaluating when deciding what kind of plug-in hybrid, conventional hybrid, or all-electric vehicle to buy.

One curious side note: Ford couldn’t help but take a jab at Tesla in its press release promoting the new total range of its Fusion Energi plug-in. Here’s the interesting nugget:

Fusion Energi is on sale now. Its 610-mile range is nearly triple that of the upcoming Tesla Model 3, which Tesla says has a projected total range of 215 miles. The Model 3 doesn’t run on gas, so it also must be recharged immediately when its battery is depleted.

Ford seems to be appealing to the consumers who are still worried about the limitations of an all-electric vehicle. The statement is also in line with what kind of vehicles Ford is betting on.

Earlier this month, Ford executive chairman Bill Ford talked up plug-in hybrids as a sensible transitional technology during Fortune’s Brainstorm E conference focused on tech, sustainability, and energy.

“As a transitional technology, plug-in hybrids make a lot of sense,” Ford said at the time. “If you drive in a daily commute, let’s say in San Francisco all week, you could be on your electric battery and never tap into your internal combustion engine. But if you wanted to go to Los Angeles for the weekend, you could do that too without any range anxiety. So I think that’s a very interesting transitional technology, particularly for people where it’s their only vehicle.”

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