Fresh off of its North American Truck of the Year win, Ford's Transit Connect commercial van range is set to grow by two. The Blue Oval will present the space-efficient runabout in production electric and taxi forms at tomorrow's Chicago Auto Show.
The battery-powered version, unimaginatively dubbed Transit Connect Electric, is primarily intended as a fleet solution for intra-city use. The emissions-free vanlet has a range of up to 80 miles and can be recharged through either a 240-volt or 120-volt outlet. In Ford's words, the TCE is "ideal for fleet owners that have well-defined routes of predictable distances and a central location for daily recharging," and we can see it being a great fit for utility companies and urban-only delivery services and such.
Despite the added bulk within the chassis of the electric powertrain and battery, Ford says the transit connect will still have the same 135 cubic feet of cargo space, including 72.6 inches of load length.
The Transit Connect Electric clearly isn't designed for home use, although Ford officials admitted to us that a few might get pressed into service in that capacity. Still, those looking for a battery-electric solution for their driveway would probably be better off waiting for the Focus Electric, a model slated for 2011.
While the average consumer is unlikely to catch a ride in Ford's Transit Connect Electric, we're betting that you'll have a very good chance at planting your posterior in Dearborn's new taxi package model in the next few years, especially as the company's ubiquitous Crown Victoria cab is marked for extinction.
The Transit Connect Taxi will be powered by the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine as the TC that's already on the market, but Ford will offer engine prep packages to convert the vehicle to run on either compressed natural gas or propane fuels. Even without the conversion kits, the gas-powered TC is said to be 30 percent more fuel-efficient than current taxis.
Unlike the Crown Vic, the Blue Oval promises that the taxi package will be available with a version of Ford Work Solutions that will also include high-speed Internet and navigation. In addition, Ford is working with suppliers to offer rear-seat entertainment packages and a credit-card swipe pay station for passengers. In the prototype vehicle that we had the chance to sit in, there was an 8.4-inch screen in the back seat that offered everything from maps to a stock ticker, weather conditions, and cab fare. Rear legroom was a bit on the tight side, but ingress and egress was easier than other vehicles with the big sliders, and cargo capacity remains solid.
The Transit Connect Taxi goes into production this year and will be earmarked as a 2011 model.
High-res galleries below, official press releases for both vehicles available after the jump.