Ford ups the ante in fuel economy wars

Ford says the 2013 C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid will deliver as many as 21 miles of range in all-electric mode, and an EPA-certified equivalent of 100 mpg in combined city and highway driving.

Lost amid the squabbling over drilling permits on public land, Iowa wind farms, Massachusetts coal plants and high gasoline prices during Wednesday's heated presidential debate, another shot was fired on the front lines of the battle for energy independence.

Ford Motor Co. said earlier Wednesday that the 2013 C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid has been certified to go 620 miles on a tank of gasoline and single charge as rated by the EPA.

That's enough to top the range of the 2012 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid by 80 miles, and the 2013 Chevrolet Volt, with a range of 380 miles.

(To be fair, the C-Max Energi has a larger fuel tank than the Prius plug-in hybrid and Volt.)

But Ford, raising the ante in the fuel economy wars, says the C-Max Energi plug-in will deliver as many as 21 miles of range in all-electric, and an EPA-certified equivalent of 100 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The Prius plug-in is rated at 95 mpg-e combined and the Volt is rated at 98 mpg-e combined.

Sales, no doubt, will be modest given the C-Max Energi's base price of $33,745, including destination. Federal income tax credits of as much as $3,750 can knock the price down to $29,995. And additional incentives will be available in select states.

Last month, Ford fired another volley at Toyota when the 2013 Fusion hybrid was certified by the EPA to deliver 47 mpg city/47 highway/47 combined in hybrid mode.

That's enough to beat the Toyota Camry hybrid by 8 mpg on the highway and 4 mpg in city driving.

Later this year, Ford aims to raise the ante further with the Fusion Energi plug-in, which it vows will become the world's most fuel-efficient mid-sized car, topping 100 mpg-e.

We're now well beyond the goal of the 80-mpg family sedan envisioned by the Clinton administration's Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles.

There's no doubt Ford will be trumped by a rival or rivals in coming months or years.

But while Washington dithers over the best energy policy, the auto industry is moving the needle forward on fuel economy.

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