Fans of green driving will be pleased to find out that Ford will be taking their alternative fuels program to a new and more practical level. New truck shoppers who have been looking for a vehicle that can not only handle all of the cargo hauling needs for their business, but one that also satisfies their desire to reduce their carbon footprint would do well to bide their time and wait for the announced Ford Transit Connect EV. This electric edition of the popular, European-style van is scheduled to come to North America later this year, and it will be the first and so far only commercial electric van available from a major manufacturer.
The Ford Transit Connect EV is motivated by the Force Drive powertrain, built by a company called Azure Dynamics. It makes use of a 300-volt Siemens electric motor that is capable of generating 116.5 lb-ft of torque right off of the line, as well as a peak torque output of 173 lb-ft of torque. This guarantees that the vehicle's performance and driving experience will be able to match that of the gasoline-powered Transit Connect, which offers 128 lb-ft of torque. The electric vehicle's top speed is limited to 85 miles per hour, again matching the version of the van already on sale in terms of mission profile.
Unsurprisingly, the Ford Transit Connect EV is aimed at urban business owners who have a predictable delivery route or hauling schedule. In particular, fleet buyers who can operate a central charging facility represent the ideal customer for Ford. The vehicle's battery is good for a range of up to 80 miles on a single charge, which should be more than enough for the majority of commercial needs. The vehicle can be recharged in between six to eight hours if connected to a 240-volt outlet, which again fits the needs of most companies able to simply plug the van into the wall at the end of the day and unplug it the next morning when it is time to hit the streets once again. Ford also offers 110-volt charging capacity for the Transit Connect EV, with a concomitant longer charge time. The battery itself is a 192-cell lithium-ion unit that offers a life cycle of 120,000 miles or approximately 10 years of solid use. The entire drivetrain comes with a 60,000 mile, five-year warranty.
Perhaps the most impressive achievement Ford engineers accomplished when putting together the electric edition of the Transit Connect - aside from its zero emissions - is the fact that the van gives up none of the interior volume that has made it such a practical vehicle. Ford found no need to alter the Transit Connect's 135 cubic feet of cargo space in order to accommodate its battery pack. The vehicle also offers the same interior load height and width when compared to the standard edition.
The electric version of the van isn't the only special green edition of the Transit Connect that Ford has up its sleeve. A new Transit Connect Taxi model, scheduled to become available around the same time as the EV will offer a unique version of Ford's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder Duratec engine that is suitable for either liquefied petroleum gas or compressed natural gas conversion. Torque output will be similar to that in the gasoline version of the van, but emissions will be dramatically reduced thanks to the use of these two environmentally-friendly fuels. Ford plans to honor the vehicle's warranty if either of the conversions are done according to its specifications. Special interior accommodations more suited to taxi duty will also be installed at the factory, increasing leg room and adding rear ventilation and wiring for taxi signage.
There is as yet no word on pricing for either the Ford Transit Connect EV or the LPG / CNG taxi package. The current version of the van starts at $21,475, and although the electric drivetrain will certainly add to the bottom line, the taxi edition of the vehicle might not be priced all that much higher, given that the vehicle will be targeted towards fleet buyers. In any case, Ford has taken a very positive step forward in offering environmentally-conscious business owners the chance to outfit themselves with an array of alternatively-fueled cargo and passenger options.