I'd been thinking for a long time about getting a new car.
My 2003 Dodge van was still a reliable car and I was reluctant to let it go. I had put in a new transmission a couple of years ago, a “new” used engine three years ago, and always kept up with the usual repairs, the kind of maintenance that made it cheaper than investing in a new ride.
But I knew the ignition was going to blow soon and I was the only one who could read the oddly calibrated gas gauge. Toward the end, it rode like a horse and buggy, even with the same squeaks you'd hear riding a covered wagon.
“You've really got a get a new car,” my son, Rob, told me more than once. Rob is 24, the millennial you read about who doesn't have a car and doesn't really want one, but he's in Washington, D.C., where public transportation and Uber make it easy to get around.
My other son, William, 33, just swapped his Volkswagen GTI, slick as a fish in water, for a family-sized Tiguan. Brand-new, of course.
But if I was going to get a new car – and after my car got hit by a bus in February, it kind of forced the issue – I had some parameters. It needed to be a hybrid, higher than a sedan, affordable and domestic.
I searched online and, on the Bob Thomas Ford site, I came across a car I'd never heard of. The dealership had one Ford C-Max Energi right there on Coliseum Boulevard.
It was pretty zippy-looking, a little higher off the pavement than other hybrids and, as I kept reading, it seemed to have everything I wanted. Great pickup, an attractive gray color and enviable gas mileage.
Every week I was fueling up my van at a cost of $25 to $30, even with my Kroger points, and polluting the earth at the same time.
Now I could get around belching out fewer carbon particulates, and make my environmental intentions real.
I was still wary of owning one of these cars. I mean, what do you do if you run out of juice in the middle of the highway?
My salesman, Jason Butz, had all the answers. Once your electric charge is used up, the car switches over to gasoline, and every time you brake, it recharges.
Now at night, I plug my car into a regular socket, nothing fancy needed, and let the car recharge while I sleep.
The C-Max Energi hums as it recharges, a sound that is soft, reassuring and not at all smelly.
My brother watched me open up the battery port and insert the charger. Now he wants a hybrid, too.
In the first month or so I've owned the C-Max Energi, I've averaged about 75 miles per gallon. The lighted dial on my dashboard keeps track of that and other things I don't completely understand yet, but I'm working on it.
Just a note though: Ford stopped production on the C-Max last year. Online car enthusiasts put it down to a lack of marketing. But there are other models to choose from. The Lincoln Navigator will have a hybrid model soon, Butz said, and there's a Ford Fusion hybrid.
Ford is also working on a hybrid F-150.
My car is a 2016. It had only 4,000 miles on it when I bought it and was a trade-in, Butz told me. It cost me under $20,000, which made it affordable for me.
Now all I need are some solar panels on my home.