In 2008, Ford Motor Company used the Chicago Auto Show to display a potentially fuel-efficient cargo vehicle called the Ford Transit Connect, and a year later, it showed the production version that was to become a 2010 model. For this reason, it isn't too surprising that the 2010 Chicago Auto Show will display a pair of new Ford Transit Connect models that are intended to start production for the 2011 model year. With production starting for both models later this year, the 2011 Ford Transit Connect will offer available models such as a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) and a taxi.
As if the Transit Connect, the Autotropolis 2010 Truck of the Year, didn't already sell itself with impressive fuel economy, Ford has been talking about the all-electric zero-emission version of the cargo wagon for more than a year. For the production model, Ford teamed up with Michigan-based Azure Dynamics Corporation to equip the Transit Connect with the electric drive system, known as Azure Force Drive. The three-phase electric motor features peak torque of 173 lb-ft which is powered by a 28 kWh, 192-cell lithium-ion battery. This will give the Transit Connect BEV a range of up to 80 miles, a top speed of 75 miles per hour, and it will have an estimated charging time of six to eight hours using a 240-volt source, and considerably longer using a 120-volt source. As is the new standard for electric vehicles, the Ford Transit Connect receives its charge through the SAE J1772 connector.
Ford's spec sheet says that the Transit Connect BEV will offer the same two-, four- and five-passenger layouts as the regular gasoline version, but this model will likely be targeted solely at vehicle fleets in urban areas with well-defined, predictable routes with a good example being the United States Postal Service. Despite the changes, the Transit Connect BEV will still offer an interior cargo volume of 135 cubic feet, but the maximum payload is limited to 1,000 pounds. Like all Transit Connect models, the BEV version will be built in Kocaeli, Turkey, but then will be shipped to Oak Park, Mich. for final assembly of the electric drive system. Ford states that the Transit Connect BEV will have a life expectancy of 10 years or 120,000 miles, and Azure will back its electric-drive components with a five-year/60,000-mile warranty.
In addition to targeting urban drivers with the BEV model, the Transit Connect passenger van abundance of passenger and cargo space also makes a perfect sense taxi vehicle. Even with a full load of passengers (four plus the driver), the Transit Connect Taxi can also accommodate up to 78 cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seat. The Transit Connect's tall roofline should improve passenger comfort even compared to a minivan while the dual side sliding doors should make ingress and egress just as easy. The Transit Connect Taxi will come standard with vinyl seating surfaces, a rubber floor covering and a wiring upfit package for typical taxi add-ons. There are also predrilled holes in the roof for illuminated taxi signage as well as plenty of space for a passenger partition, but these will not be Ford-installed items. Ford is also working on an automated payment system that works in collaboration with the Ford Work Solutions system.
It is probably not a coincidence that the taxi version of the Transit Connect is scheduled to debut the same year that the Ford Crown Victoria is slated to end production. The Ford Transit Connect Taxi will carry on Ford's long history of offering rugged and capable fleet vehicles that include the Ford E-Series and Ford F-Series. Even though the Transit Connect already gets surprising fuel economy numbers with an EPA estimated 22 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, Ford says that the Transit Connect taxi will come with a prep package to allow for conversions to compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane.
With battery technology still in its infancy when it comes to electric cars, these two vehicles could even be combined in the future to offer an all-electric taxi van as the technology continues to advance. In addition to the 2011 Transit Connect BEV, Ford is also planning to offer an all-electric Focus in 2011, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in 2012 and an all-new hybrid system also in 2012.