By John Addison (update 11/3/11; 12/8/10)
Ford Motor Company and Azure Dynamics are now shipping the Ford Transit Connect Electrics to large fleets. My test drive convinced me that this van will be a winner with U.S. fleet managers who control 4 million delivery vehicles. Shipments have also started to Europe, beginning with the U.K. 500 to 1,000 will be delivered in 2011.
The all-electric commercial vans are built on the Ford Transit Connect vehicle body, equipped with Azure Dynamics’ patented Force Drive™ battery electric powertrain, and assembled by AM General at its facility in Livonia, Michigan. The 28kWh lithium battery pack is supplied by the Johnson Controls SAFT JV.
Azure Dynamics’ LEAD customer program includes AT&T, Southern California Edison, Xcel Energy, Johnson Controls Inc., New York Power Authority, Canada Post and Toronto Atmospheric Fund EV300. Additional demonstration program – LEAD -customers will be identified by the end of the year.
Transit Connect Electric is the first product in Ford’s accelerated electrified vehicle plan, and will be followed by the Focus Electric passenger car in 2011, along with a plug-in hybrid electric and two next-generation lithium-ion battery-powered hybrid vehicles in 2012.
Electric Olympics 2012
As the UK prepares for an electric 2012 Olympics, the Transit Connect Electric commercial van is headed to the United Kingdom, where 14 of the vehicles will take part in the government’s Ultra-Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator program. The program, supported by Scottish and Southern Energy, utilizes a fleet of zero-emissions vehicles for the energy company, with designated drivers to test vehicle and infrastructure technology.
The consortium of Ford, Scottish and Southern Energy and the University of Strathclyde will provide Transit Connect Electric vehicles and a charging infrastructure in and around the London suburb of Hillingdon during 2010 and 2011.
Ford and Azure Dynamics already have announced they will collaborate to produce the Transit Connect Electric for the European market with first units to be delivered in 2011.
New EV for Millions of Fleet Vehicle Market
The all-electric, zero-emissions Transit Connect Electric has a driving range of up to 80 miles per full charge and is ideal for fleet owners who have well-defined routes of predictable distances and a central location for daily recharging. Delivery fleet and utility vehicle operators have begun to show a preference for smaller, more efficient vehicles, which creates an ideal time for Transit Connect Electric to come to market.
Owners will have the option of recharging Transit Connect Electric with either a standard 120-volt outlet, or preferably a 240-volt charge station, typically installed at the user’s base of operations for optimal recharging in six to eight hours. A transportable cord that works with both types of outlets will be available for convenient recharging at either voltage.
The vehicle’s charge port is located above the passenger-side rear wheel well. The onboard liquid-cooled 28-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is charged by connecting the charge port to a power outlet. Inside the vehicle, an onboard charger converts AC power from the electric grid to DC power to charge the battery pack.
When the vehicle is operating, battery power is provided to the drive motor through the electric powertrain’s motor controller. The motor controller uses throttle input from the driver to convert DC power supplied by the battery into three precisely timed signals used to drive the motor. The onboard DC/DC converter allows the vehicle’s main battery pack to charge the onboard 12-volt battery, which powers the vehicle’s various accessories, such as headlights, power steering and coolant pumps.
Clean Fleet Report forecasts that only Nissan and Chevrolet will sell more electric vehicles than Ford in 2011. Top 10 EV Report 2011
By John Addison (10/12/10)
AT&T (T), Xcel Energy (XEL), Johnson Controls (JCI), Southern California Edison (SCE), and New York Power Authority have all ordered Ford Transit Connect Electric. These pure battery-electric vans have an electric charge range of 80 miles and are a great fit for many fleet, small business, and delivery applications. Although Nissan and Chevrolet are the center of EV attention, fleets are the early adapters of new vehicles.
In the United States, fleets control some 14 million vehicles. Some fleets placed initial orders for 10 or 20 Transit Connect Electrics; bigger orders could follow in 2011. JCI has ordered 20 Transit Connect Electrics to be part of its global fleet of 19,000 vehicles.
At the heart of these compact Ford electric vans are 28 kWh lithium battery packs made by a joint venture of SAFT and Johnson Controls, #1 maker of automotive batteries, a tier 1 auto supplier, and leader in building efficiency. The other day, I interviewed Mary Ann Wright, Vice President of Global Technology and Innovation Accelerator for Johnson Controls, to better understand the future of electric vehicles and advanced batteries. Johnson Controls is one of the 100 largest corporations in the U.S., with over 60,000 employees.
Partnerships are critical to success in electric vehicles. As the world’s largest manufacturer of lead-acid batteries, Johnson Controls (JCI) works closely with its material suppliers. To accelerate development of lithium batteries, R&D and manufacturing is a joint venture of Johnson Controls – SAFT (JCS).
For speed to market, Ford has partnered with Azure Dynamics (AZD), who integrates their drive system and the Johnson Controls – SAFT (JCS) lithium batteries into the Transit Connect chassis, which is also available in gasoline and CNG versions. My test drive of the Ford Transit Connect Electric demonstrated that it is practical for many fleet applications. JCI owns over 3% of AZD.
Since 2007, Ford and Johnson Controls have worked with leading electric utilities and EPRI. In 2007, Ford announced a partnership with Southern California Edison, the electric utility with the nation’s largest and most advanced electric vehicle fleet. The partnership is designed to explore ways to make plug-in hybrids more accessible to consumers, reduce petroleum-related emissions and understand issues related to connectivity between vehicles and the electric grid. For the 3-year study, Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrids have been heavily used. It will not be until 2012, that consumers can order plug-in hybrids from Ford.
Vice President Wright told me that driving lithium battery packs down in price from industry numbers like today’s $700/kWh to a future of $200/kWh would price electric car on par with cars powered with internal combustion engines. Progress is being made at every level. Manufacturing volume will be a key driver.
The drive for cost reduction will greatly benefit consumers and fleets; cost reduction initiatives will be a mixed blessing for battery suppliers. Last year, Ford had announced that JCS would supply the lithium batteries for its 2012 Plug-in Hybrid which Clean Fleet Report forecasts will be a new Ford Focus PHEV. Now JCS will not be the supplier. Ford has decided to make its own battery packs, and have different manufacturers compete to supply the cells. JCS is the winner for the Transit Connect Electric; LG Chem’s Compact Power is the winner for the Ford Focus Electric; competition has been intense for the PHEV. It appears that Ford has selected the PHEV cell supplier, but has not yet made the announcement.
In this decade, Nancy Gioia, Director Ford Global Electrification, told me that she would like to see Ford reach $250/kWh and have hybrid and electric vehicles represent 10 to 25% of total Ford sales. Ford is making no guarantees for such an ambitious program. Ford lithium cell providers are dealing with a tough customer that could deliver high volumes and continuous improvement.
For $28 billion Johnson Controls, Ford is an important customer, but only one customer. BMW and Mercedes are already using JCS lithium batteries in hybrids. In this decade, JCI sees the biggest opportunity in advanced start-stop, mild, and full hybrid vehicles; with pure battery-electrics being a smaller opportunity. By 2025, Ms. Wright only forecasts 3% of cars being full hybrid and electric.
Look inside a hybrid car and you will see two types of batteries: advanced nickel metal or lithium batteries for the electric motor and a 12V lead-acid battery for the auxiliaries. Lead-acid batteries will continue to be used in hundreds of millions of vehicles including hybrid and those with only an ICE. Johnson Controls continues to advance lead-acid batteries with new VARTA Start-Stop technology. These new batteries are optimal for the micro hybrids now on the road in Europe in over a million cars and coming to the USA. Turning off an engine reduces fuel consumption up to 12% when a vehicle is stationary, such as red lights and rush-hour gridlock. BMW was first to use the micro hybrid approach, now Volkswagen, Audi and others are including start-stop in some models.
When I toured Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last year, advancements in both lead-acid and lithium batteries were conspicuous. JCI told me that 98% of the materials in both battery technologies are recycled. As a world leader in energy efficient buildings, Johnson Controls will have the opportunity to repurpose lithium batteries in stationary applications before materials recycling.
Improved battery technology will continue to enable vehicles to use less fuel per mile, show us bluer skies with less air pollution, and reduce our current 97% dependency on petroleum as the only way to fuel a car.
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 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.
Ford Escape PHEV Uses 120V
By John Addison. Ford will introduce a battery-only commercial van in 2010, followed by a passenger car built on the same technology in 2011, and exciting plug-in vehicles by 2012. To accelerate commercialization, Ford will partner with leaders in drive systems, lithium batteries, specialty electric vehicles, and electric utilities.
Ford will build on its existing success with the Ford Escape Hybrid, the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid, an impressive mid-sized sedan that ranks in the Clean Fleet Report’s Top 10 Sedans.
Last summer, I met with Ford’s Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs, and Greg Frenette, Chief engineer for research and advanced technologies. They discussed Ford’s commitment to continued improvements in fuel economy with gas turbo direct injection (GTDI), lighter vehicle weight without any sacrifice in safety, transmission efficiency, and increased use of electric drive systems. Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are definitely in Ford’s future. In fact, Nancy Gioia, has been driving her own Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid.
The Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid has been successfully in a number of fleet and research environments. One is Boulder, Colorado, which is becoming Smart Grid City. Working with a major utility, Xcel Energy, residents hope to lower their utility bills, improve energy efficiency, and develop city-wide support for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.
University of Colorado Chancellor Bud Peterson and his wife, Val, were the first to let Xcel transform their home to be part of Smart Grid City. Xcel put solar panels on the house, gave them a new smart meter for vehicle charging, and a Ford Escape Hybrid which is converted to have vehicle-to-grid capability. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology is a bi-directional electric grid interface that allows an electric vehicle to take energy from the grid or put it back on the grid. When fully charged, their car plug-in hybrid batteries have enough power to keep their home running for days by using V2G.
Seven more electric utility providers are joining the Ford and Electric Power Research Institute to expand real world testing with Ford Escape PHEVs. Utility partnerships and industry standards will be critical to the expansion of a smart-charging infrastructure and to the long-term viability of V2G.
Ford will have Johnson Controls-Saft develop an advanced lithium-ion battery system to power Ford’s first commercial plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The lithium-ion battery system that Johnson Controls-Saft is designing and manufacturing for Ford includes cells, mechanical, electrical, electronic, and thermal components. Initially the cells will be produced at the supplier’s production facility in France, but the system will be assembled in the United States. The five-year supply agreement includes delivery for committed production in 2012 with a target of at least 5,000 units per year.
Commercial sales of the Ford Escape PHEV are planned for 2012. A fully charged Ford Escape PHEV operates in two modes, electric drive and blended electric/engine drive. It uses common household current (120 volts) for charging, with a full charge of the lithium-ion battery completed within 6 to 8 hours. When driven on surface streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can achieve up to 120 mpg. This 30-mile range fits the average daily needs of most U.S. drivers.
In 2010, Ford also plans to begin sales of zero-emission battery-electric vans. To speed time to market, Ford will be collaborating with Tanfield to offer battery-electric versions of the Ford Transit and Transit Connect commercial vehicles for fleet customers in the UK and European markets. Tanfield’s Smith has over 100 electric trucks and delivery vans in service with customers today. More details may be announced at the Chicago Auto Show this month.
Battery-electric vans are well suited for many applications where ranges are limited and frequent stopping provides for regenerative braking. USPS has used electric postal vehicles for years. FedEx Express has ordered 10 Modec electric commercial vehicles for use in the United Kingdom.
At the Detroit Auto Show, Ford was showing a new battery-electric sedan developed jointly with Magna International with a 23kWh lithium battery pack. Commercial sales are planned for 2011 for a vehicle similar in size to the Ford Focus. Ford will compete with hundreds of battery-electric vehicle competitors including smaller specialty vehicle makers and Nissan, which is determined to be the early volume leader in freeway-speed electric vehicles. Ford will also be competiting with the plug-in Prius and Chevy Volt.
Given the success of Ford and Mercury hybrids, Ford is positioned to do well as it expands into these plug-in hybrid and battery-electric offerings. Success will lead to success, with larger and smaller Ford EVs being likely past 2012.
John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – will be available in paperback and ebook on March 25 at Amazon and other booksellers.