Ford Transit Connect Electric Test Drive

Ford Transit Connect Electric Test Drive

By John Addison (3/7/10)

Before I got behind the wheel of the Transit Connect Electric, I asked myself, “Who is going to buy a battery-electric van of this size?” Fleet managers of utilities, universities, and city delivery all came to mind. Electric utilities have plenty of off-peak electricity for charging vehicles. For a utility with 5,000 vehicles in its fleet, hundreds could be replaced with the Transit Connect Electric.

AT&T ordered two of the Transit Connect Electrics for delivery later in the year. “Cleaner, alternative-fuel vehicles are the future of our corporate fleet, and the Transit Connect Electric represents a real breakthrough and will be a strong addition to our range of alternative-fuel vehicles,” said Jerome Webber, vice president of fleet operations at AT&T. “It’s exactly the kind of vehicle we envisioned when we mapped our long-term vision to invest up to $565 million to deploy more than 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles through 2018.” AT&T currently operates more than 77,000 vehicles in its corporate fleet, including 15 gasoline-powered Ford Transit Connect vehicles AT&T began piloting in 2009.

 

Many universities have hundreds of light electric vehicles for maintenance and on-campus delivery. The Transit Connect Electric would greatly increase the range and cargo for these applications. Many city delivery applications do not require much range and space, but value fitting in a tight parking spot.

The Transit Connect Electric looks identical to its gasoline cousin that was awarded 2010 North American Truck of the Year. The Transit Connect Electric has over 6 feet of cargo length that can be accessed through two sliding side doors, and two swinging rear doors. By keeping the cargo space to this size, the Ford has an 80-mile range on a charge of its 28kWh of lithium-ion batteries. The cargo space is perfect for many delivery, maintenance, and contractor needs, but not for all. Many fleet applications need the 290 cubic feet available in the Ford E Series vans or the 547 cubic feet of the Mercedes Sprinter.

As I get behind the wheel, I notice that the Transit Connect Electric is still ¾ fully charged, even though Ford has been giving journalists test drives for a couple of hours. The dash is simple in comparison to the Fusion Hybrid. No fancy telematics, GPS, or back-up camera. The rear view mirror won’t help me because of the high cabinets in this particular vehicle’s cargo space. I use the side mirrors to back-up. The vehicle is easy to maneuver out of the tight parking space.

As I turn and accelerate on the busy city street, the vehicle is silent. I cannot even hear the electric motor. Zero to 60 in 11 seconds is nothing to brag about, but the acceleration was adequate on the level street. Initial acceleration felt slow, when I accelerated on a 6 percent grade from a stopped position.

I asked Ford if I could get off their two-mile loop and go up a 20 percent grade. They declined because too many journalists were waiting for their turn to make a test drive. I was assured that the Transit Connect Electric is speced for a 25 percent grade.

After of few more blocks, I looped back to our starting point. With electric power steering, the vehicle was easy to drive. The electric drive system was always quiet and smooth. When I parked the Ford the charge was still ¾ full.

Ford has not yet establishing the pricing for the Transit Connect Electric, but with 28kWh of expensive lithium batteries, it will cost more than the $21,500 gasoline version of the Transit Connect and more than the natural gas version. The 2011 Transit Connect Electric uses a Force Drive electric powertrain manufactured and integrated by Azure Dynamics who has built electric delivery truck drive systems for the U.S. Post Office, Purolator Courier, and Fed Ex. In addition to the Transit Connect Electric, Ford will sell the Focus Electric in 2011 and Plug-in Hybrid 2012.

Transit Connect Electric is well-suited for fleets that travel predictable, short-range routes with frequent stop-and-go driving in cities and have a central location for daily recharging. The electric vehicle will have a top speed of 75 mph and a targeted range of up to 80 miles on a full electric charge. At 240V, the 28kWh Johnson Controls-Saft (JCS) lithium-ion battery back can be recharged in 6 to 8 hours. The battery pack is liquid cooled. An onboard charger with J1772 communications converts the AC power from the electric grid to DC power to charge the battery pack. JCS has supplied Ford for many years. JCS will supply the 8 to 13 kWh lithium battery cells for the 2012 Ford Plug-in Hybrid, but Ford will make the actual pack.

With an 80-mile charge range, the Transit Connect Electric will be used in fleet applications of less than 20,000 miles per year. The lithium batteries have been tested at many electric utilities. The Johnson Controls li-ion battery modules on bench testing at utility giant SCE accumulated the equivalent of 180,000 road miles before losing more than 5 percent of the original charge capacity. This Ford van with its JCS batteries is designed for years of use.

By partnering with Azure and JCS, Ford will be one of the first to delivery commercial freeway-speed electric vehicles in the United States. The Transit Connect Electric is part of a growing family of Ford hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles.

Ford Transit Connect 80-mile range Electric Delivery Truck

Ford Transit Connect 80-mile range Electric Delivery Truck

2011 Ford Transit Connect ElectricFord Motor Company unveiled the all-electric version of the Ford Transit Connect – the 2010 North American Truck of the Year – at the Chicago Auto Show and confirmed the zero-emissions small van will be in fleet operators’ hands later this year.

The 2011 Transit Connect Electric will use a Force Drive electric powertrain manufactured and integrated by Azure Dynamics who has built electric delivery truck drive systems for the U.S. Post Office, Purolator Courier, and Fed Ex.

Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development, said, “Not only is this an ideal vehicle for eco-conscious fleet operators, it is an important part of Ford’s future.”

In addition to the Transit Connect Electric, Ford will sell the Focus Electric in 2011 and Plug-in Hybrid 2012.

Transit Connect Electric is well-suited for fleets that travel predictable, short-range routes with frequent stop-and-go driving in cities and have a central location for daily recharging. The electric vehicle will have a top speed of 75 mph and a targeted range of up to 80 miles on a full electric charge. At 240V, the 28kWh Johnson Controls-Saft (JCS) lithium-ion battery back can be recharged in 6 to 8 hours. The battery pack is liquid cooled. An onboard charger converts the AC power from the electric grid to DC power to charge the battery pack.

JCS has supplied Ford for many years. JCS will supply the 8 to 13 kWh lithium battery for the 2012 Ford Plug-in Hybrid which we forecast will be part of an all-new Ford Focus family.

A transportable cord that works with both types 120V and 240V outlets will be available for recharging at both kinds of locations. The onboard DC/DC converter allows the vehicle’s main battery pack to charge the onboard 12V battery, which powers the vehicle’s various accessories, such as headlights, power steering and coolant pumps.

Azure Dynamics’ proprietary Force Drive battery electric powertrain will be the driving force in the Transit Connect Electric. Force Drive components have previously been deployed in more than 40 vehicle integrations and have more than 25 million miles of on-the-road experience.

With rising gasoline prices, the Transit Connect Electric will be a money maker for local businesses with a delivery range of less than 80 miles daily such as drug stores, auto parts dealers, and florists. Tax incentives, local clean air funds, and added business from green conscious customers will all be part of the equation. Some government fleet applications will also be a good match. Ford identifies the following savings in vehicle maintenance:

•The number of components typical in an internal combustion engine and transmission are dramatically reduced in an electric vehicle to just a few moving parts in the electric motor and transaxle, which results in much fewer parts to wear out or maintain

•Electric powertrains operate with solid state electronics, which have demonstrated low or no maintenance over the life of the product

•Electric vehicles have completely sealed cooling systems that do not require refilling, replacement or flushing

•Electric vehicles require no oil changes or tune-ups

•There are no belts to wear out or break and no spark plugs or injectors to clean or adjust

•There is no exhaust system to replace and no liquid fuel system to freeze or clog

•The use of regenerative braking reduces wear and tear on brake pads

Transit Connect Electric is a strong addition to Ford’s successful Transit Connect. Both have the following specs:

•135 cubic feet of cargo volume with 59.1 inches of floor-to-ceiling load height and 47.8 inches of load width between the wheel arches

•Load length of just over six feet of cargo floor space

•Split rear cargo doors that open at a standard 180 degrees, or an optionally available 255 degrees

•Lift-over height less than two feet when the vehicle is unloaded

•Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering allows a 39-foot curb-to-curb turning circle for maneuverability in tight urban spaces

•Bulkheads, racks, bins and other upfits can be mixed, matched and configured to suit many specific commercial applications and needs

Although the 135 cubic feet of cargo is no match for the cargo space in 16,000 pound vans widely used by UPS and FedEx, the vehicle size is perfect for many city delivery applications. As detailed in our FedEx Clean Fleet Report,  the volume and weight of an average package is now less. People are shipping more iPods and less big stereos.