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.
ford transit connect electric Commercial van helps fleet customers go COMPLETELY gas-free
• Ford Transit Connect Electric, a pure electric-powered version of the award-winning Transit Connect small van, goes into production in late 2010
• Ford is collaborating with Azure Dynamics Corporation to upfit the Transit Connect Electric with Azure's Force Drive™ battery electric powertrain and Johnson Controls-Saft's advanced lithium-ion battery technology
• Transit Connect Electric is the first product in Ford's accelerated electrified vehicle plan, and will be followed by the Focus Electric in 2011, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in 2012 and next-generation hybrid technology in 2012
• The all-electric, zero-emission Transit Connect Electric has targeted range of up to 80 miles per full charge, and will be rechargeable using either 240-volt or standard 120-volt outlets
• Transit Connect Electric is ideal for fleet owners that have well-defined routes of predictable distances and a central location for daily recharging
CHICAGO, Feb. 9, 2010 – Ford Motor Company today 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 specialty upfitter Azure Dynamics.
"Transit Connect Electric exemplifies how we are leveraging our relationships as well as our hybrid and advanced powertrain programs to bring energy-efficient technologies from the laboratory to the street," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. "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 plans to bring three more electrified vehicles to market by 2012 – the Focus Electric in 2011, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in 2012 and a next-generation hybrid in 2012.
Getting charged up and moving
Transit Connect Electric is well-suited for commercial fleets that travel predictable, short-range routes with frequent stop-and-go driving in urban and suburban environments and a central location for daily recharging. The vehicle, which will accelerate at a similar rate as the gas-powered Transit Connect and will have a top speed of 75 mph, has a targeted range of up to 80 miles on a full charge.
Owners will have the option of recharging the Transit Connect Electric with either a standard 120V outlet or preferably a 240V charge station 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 recharging at both kinds of locations.
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. Inside the vehicle, an onboard charger converts the AC power from the electric grid to DC power to charge the battery pack.
"We're excited about the potential for our electrified vehicles," said Praveen Cherian, program manager for the Transit Connect Electric, who added that today's electric vehicle buyers are similar to early adopters of hybrid vehicles. "People were a little hesitant about hybrids at first, but now they accept it and embrace it. We expect the same will be true of electric vehicles."
Driving on electric power
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 12V battery, which powers the vehicle's various accessories, such as headlights, power steering and coolant pumps.
In the Transit Connect Electric, the battery pack has been efficiently integrated without compromising interior passenger room and cargo space. The battery pack is expected to last the life of the vehicle.
Collaborations are key Transit Connect Electric builds on the existing business relationship between Ford and Azure Dynamics, as well as their shared experience with battery supplier, Johnson Controls-Saft.
"There is an increasing interest in electrified vehicles, and we are committed to bringing these vehicles to the marketplace," said Nancy Gioia, Ford director of Global Electrification. "Ford's work with Azure and Johnson Controls-Saft to create a purely electric Transit Connect will allow us to offer fleet customers an additional option for eco-friendly transportation."
Oak Park, Mich.-based Azure Dynamics develops hybrid electric and electric drive technology for shuttle buses and commercial trucks, such as the Balance™ Hybrid Electric, which is built on the Ford E-450 cutaway and strip chassis for the medium-duty commercial vehicle segment.
"The opportunity to work with Ford on the Transit Connect Electric is a breakthrough advancement for us at Azure and for the light-commercial vehicle market," said Scott Harrison, Azure Dynamics CEO. "For us, it's an important evolution of our existing relationship with Ford. From an industry standpoint, we are seeing delivery fleet and utility vehicle operators move to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles."
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.
Johnson Controls-Saft was selected by Azure Dynamics as the supplier for lithium-ion battery cells and battery packs for the Transit Connect Electric. Azure Dynamics and Ford both currently use Johnson Controls-Saft battery technology for other products.
An ideal platform
With a unique combination of car-like driving dynamics, cargo capacity, accessibility and low purchase and operation costs, the Transit Connect is an ideal choice for electrification.
The Transit Connect Electric is expected to offer lower cost of operation, because recharging with electricity is generally less expensive than refueling with gasoline. Users may also benefit from much lower maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle. Consider the following:
• 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
Common strengths Although there are significant differences between the Transit Connect Electric and its gas-powered twin, there are many things in common as well. Both models offer:
• 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 a generous 72.6 inches, or more than 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
"With interest in eco-friendly vehicles stronger than ever among commercial and government fleet operators, the Transit Connect Electric promises to offer another unique solution for their needs," said Gerry Koss, Ford fleet marketing manager.
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ford transit connect taxi 'on duty'; new people mover runs on green fuels with NEW engine option
• Transit Connect Taxi goes into production and will be available for the 2011 model year
• Transit Connect is built on a dedicated commercial vehicle platform, tested to Ford's toughest truck standards, offers a fuel-efficient 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine and is designed to meet the extreme demands of taxi service
• A new engine prep package allows conversion to efficient, clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane (LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas)
• Transit Connect's roomy, easy-to-access interior provides passenger comfort and ample luggage storage space, even after modification to contain CNG/LPG fuel tanks
CHICAGO, Feb. 9, 2010 – The Ford Transit Connect Taxi will go into production and arrive in dealerships later this year as a 2011 model, adding to Ford Motor Company's leadership in the North American taxi market.
Making the announcement today at the Chicago Auto Show, Ford also said it will introduce engine prep packages on all Transit Connect models – base and taxi – allowing conversion to efficient, clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane (LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas). Both CNG and LPG are popular among taxi operators because of their low cost of ownership.
The roomy, flexible interior of the Transit Connect – the 2010 North American Truck of the Year – is perfectly suited for taxi service and conversion to CNG and LPG. The vehicle's 135 cubic feet of cargo space accommodates a compressed gas tank while leaving ample passenger legroom and cargo capacity.
"While meeting with taxi operators in cities throughout the U.S., we found considerable interest for vehicles that run on alternative fuels," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of The Americas. "The Transit Connect Taxi, combined with an engine modified by Ford to use CNG/LPG, is designed to meet that need. This marks a new era in 'green' transit."
To further serve taxi operators, Ford will provide required calibration specifications for the CNG or LPG conversion. By properly following Ford's specifications, the conversion can be completed without voiding the engine's warranty.
The alternative fuel advantage
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, CNG is less expensive and burns cleaner than gasoline, resulting in 30 percent to 40 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. Propane also burns cleaner than gasoline.
"Compressed natural gas and propane offer more than sufficient power for vehicles because they are high-energy fuels," said Rob Stevens, Transit Connect chief engineer. "Another natural benefit for these fuels is they provide an overall lower emission of greenhouse gases compared to gasoline. Additionally, operating on CNG or LPG provides the operators lower fuel/operating costs for their fleet."
Furthermore, nearly 87 percent of natural gas used in the United States is domestically produced. There also are government tax credit incentives for fleets to convert to alternative fuels.
Since October 2009, CNG prep packages have been available on E-Series vans with 5.4-liter and 6.8-liter gas engines.
A conversion-ready interior
The Transit Connect Taxi offers an outstanding interior package for people and cargo. With its open architecture, the taxi provides excellent interior headroom and passenger visibility. The vehicle's rear seat has been moved back three inches to maximize passenger comfort. Plus, with 6.5 inches of ground clearance, passengers step easily through the dual sliding doors. Additional climate control ventilation has been added for rear seat passengers.
The Transit Connect Taxi also features a wiring upfit package with a hole in the roof for signage, vinyl front and rear seats, rubber rear floor, sliding second-row windows and standard third-row windows – all of which are factory installed. Additional installation of technology and other taxi modifications such as roof signage and the optional seating partition are handled by taxi upfitters in local markets.
The vehicle's cargo area easily accommodates compressed natural gas tanks directly behind the second-row seat, still allowing ample luggage storage.
Technology on the go Ford is collaborating with Creative Mobile Technologies, LLC (CMT), to integrate premier payment processing and passenger information technologies in the Transit Connect Taxi.
Ford and CMT also are developing strategies for potential integration of Ford Work Solutions, a suite of productivity technologies for business owners providing a wireless in-dash computer with full high-speed Internet access and navigation.
"Ford has demonstrated a significant commitment to support the taxi industry with not only a dedicated product but also with the commitment to work with the technology companies that support the industry," said Jason Poliner, chief operating officer, CMT. "Ford understands that the taxi business is not just the vehicle but a complete technological solution."
Evidence of how this technology could work in the future is included in the Transit Connect Taxi. It also features an 8.4-inch electronic infotainment and navigation screen that shows cab fare, news, weather, sports scores and stock ticker. With the touch screen, passengers also can select their choice of programming, follow the taxi's journey on a map, or scroll through a list of points of interest along the route – including restaurants, museums and shops.
Once at the destination, the screen displays the fare with options to pay via cash, credit or debit. Cardholders can swipe their card, select a pre-calculated tip recommendation or utilize the touch screen to enter a tip amount, and complete the transaction right from their seat.
Building on taxi leadership
The "green" taxi isn't new at Ford, which has been a leader in the taxi business for decades. Ford was the first manufacturer to introduce gas-electric hybrid-powered taxis into North American fleets with the launch of the Ford Escape Hybrid in San Francisco and New York City in early 2005.
Built on a dedicated commercial vehicle platform and tested to Ford tough truck standards, the Transit Connect Taxi – including gasoline-powered versions and those modified to operate on CNG/LPG – is designed to meet the extreme demands of taxi service.
With its standard 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, the conventionally powered Transit Connect is expected to deliver an estimated 30 percent improvement in fuel economy over many of today's traditional taxis.
"Transit Connect already has proven that it offers tremendous versatility for commercial fleet use," said Gerry Koss, Ford fleet marketing manager. "The Transit Connect taxi, combined with the capability for CNG/LPG conversion, further demonstrates its flexibility."
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About Ford Motor Company Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 198,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.