In his latest episode of the plug-in-centric show Fully Charged, Robert Llewellyn takes the Ford Azure Dynamics Transit Connect Electric for a spin.

Here's a rundown of the Transit Connect Electric's vitals: In the U.S., the electrified van stickers at $57,400, but it qualifies for the $7,500 federal tax incentive, so customers get a van that emits zero and costs little to "refuel" for $49,900. Azure Dynamics' Force Drive system, which includes a 55-kW (75-horsepower) electric motor, propels the Connect to a top speed of 75 miles per hour and its Johnson Controls-Saft 28-kWh lithium-ion battery pack provides up to 80 miles of range.

Llewellyn describes the Transit Connect Electric as the ultimate urban delivery van that could easily replace the thousands (millions?) of diesel- and gasoline-fueled vans used in major cities across the globe. It's "smooth, fast, quite, clean and comfy," according to Llewellyn. What more could you ask for in a compact van?

What's the electrified Transit Connect like to drive? You can find out for yourself with seven-plus minutes of may-the-Force-Drive-be-with-you action waiting after the jump.


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  • 23 Comments
      Andrew Richard Rose
      • 5 Months Ago
      Robert's right , you know !
      lne937s
      • 5 Months Ago
      With the Kangoo ZE costing less than half as much for a more modern vehicle with a longer range and quick charge capability, I think Ford is going to have a tough time selling very many of their 3rd-party conversions. http://www.renault-ze.com/en-gb/gamme-voitures-electriques-renault-z.e./kangoo-van-z.e./presentation-1939.html
      Marco Polo
      • 5 Months Ago
      Light commercial vehicles were always the natural market for EV's. I'm amazed that no automaker started building EV's for this market before. Smiths proved that the market was viable, ford who helped supply the gliders in the early days and the Ford families support for EV's evaporated in the financial caution of Fords precarious battle for survival. The Transit suffers from a lack of real commitment by Ford to take the initiative to protect a market shared almost exclusively by Ford and Toyota. Renault has gambled on producing a really economical, well made, light commercial EV with an imaginative battery leasing plan. I still don't understand how Renault can afford to offer the battery plan, but with the French government back on board and supporting Renault with a 25000 unit guaranteed purchase, it difficult to see how Renault can fail to become a big competitor on this market. The Transit Connect is really 2005 technology and pricing.
        DaveMart
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Marco Polo
        The French Government seems to have greatly reduced their level of support. The 25,000 order is half of that which was originally mooted, and they have not gone through with support for the battery factory in Flins, which will now not open until 2014 instead of in 2012. All this is presumably due to budgetary constraints, but kudos to Renault for carrying on anyway. The battery leasing price makes sense if the batteries cost about $400 kwh, which is the price that 123 are also selling auto batteries for for 2012 delivery in bulk. At these prices leasing makes sense, and should be the best buy for the manganese spinel chemistry early batteries will use. If they move on to NMC batteries as they have said they might at the same prices buying would likely be better, as the cycle life is around double that of manganese spinel, and in addition by that time batteries are likely to be larger so will cycle less for a given mileage. The Renault Zoe coming in September is to have a 30kwh battery, enabled by better chemistry we are told. It is perhaps most probable that this is due to NMC chemistry. Around 150,000 to 300,000 miles should be possible with this configuration. Nissan intend to turn out 200,000 battery packs in the US, and only 150,000 of them are spoken for for the Leaf. It would be an obvious move to import rebadged Renaults to make up the difference. Leasing batteries seems to be difficult in the US, presumably because of tax laws, so the price might be around the same as a diesel van, with perhaps $450 kwh added for the battery, or for 22 kwh about $10,000
          DaveMart
          • 5 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          BTW, Nissan now say that their fuel cell stack is good to go, and they can produce the vehicles at reasonable cost as soon as anyone puts in enough hydrogen infrastructure to make them worthwhile! http://www.nissan-global.com/EN/NEWS/2011/_STORY/111013-01-e.html And: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/10/nissan-20111013.html
          Marco Polo
          • 5 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          @DaveMart Thank you for your reply. All very logical. The price difference is staggering! It's difficult to see how anyone could fail to buy the Renault. I will be in the UK and France in January, and can't wait to experience for myself Renault's new range. .
          DaveMart
          • 5 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          Much more info on the Renault's here: http://www.renault.com/en/capeco2/vehicule-electrique/pages/vehicule-electrique.aspx 'Electric vehicles will retail at the same price as equivalent diesel models (without the battery, which is rented) Running costs are roughly 20% lower than an equivalent combustion vehicle since electricity costs much less than petrol (around €1 per 100 km) Maintenance costs are half those of an equivalent combustion vehicle because electric motors require less servicing' And here: http://wardsauto.com/ar/renault_ev_marketing_111007/ Highlights the Kangoo ZE is to retain a petrol tank so that drivers in cold climates can specify a petrol heater. Insurance at 20% discount to ICE. The motor for the Fluence and Kangoo, and presumably for the Zoe, is to be a synchronous coil rotor type, not permanent magnet, and so presumably has little dependence on rare earths. The killer for me though is that I can't see how these characteristics are going to do anything but greatly reduce depreciation, the biggest cost in a car.
      BipDBo
      • 5 Months Ago
      $57,400 sounds awefully steep for a 75 hp delivery mini-van, even if it's electrified. Considering the MSRP on the Leaf is $35K, I would think that this should go for around $45K, but no more than $50K. Maybe that's what happens when you just build a vehicle and have it converted by a third party rather than design it from (close to) scratch as an EV.
        Spec
        • 5 Months Ago
        @BipDBo
        Well, it is a conversion, not an EV built from the chassis up. Ford sends glider to Smith Electric (I think), Smith slaps in an Azure Dynamics EV drive train and Johnson-Saft batteries. That is too many cooks and too many different outside suppliers of niche parts. Thus, it is too expensive. Someone will eventually replace it with a van built by an auto company on a normal assembly line using EV components and batteries bought with a mass manufacturing contract.
          Spec
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Spec
          Thanks for the correction. But the point still stands in that the days of glider conversions are numbered.
          BobS
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Spec
          http://green.autoblog.com/2010/05/18/am-general-to-do-transit-connect-electric-drive-upfitting-for-fo/ Not Smith.
        mustang_sallad
        • 5 Months Ago
        @BipDBo
        75hp is the continuous rating, the Transit Connect Electric has much more in terms of peak power and torque - 140hp and 215lb-ft according to their website. I've driven electric, diesel, and gas variants of the Transit Connect and can assure you the electric powertrain has noticeably more pick up, at least at city speeds. Not sure whether it's a similar story for the Renault.
          Joeviocoe
          • 5 Months Ago
          @mustang_sallad
          Remember, Horsepower is a good way to compare the "feel of power" and "giddy up & go" ONLY when comparing two similar drivetrains. You really have to look at torque curves to see whether or not power is located where you want/need it. ex. Turbodiesel cars like the VW Jetta TDI have much less HP than the Jetta gas versions.. but feel more powerful when driven. A higher HP vehicle may beat a diesel from 0-60... but coming off the line, the diesels win. Electrics are even more pronounced. 75 hp didn't look too shabby when Robert was accelerating from a stop. He would have blown past diesel vans.
        Ziv
        • 5 Months Ago
        @BipDBo
        Bip, the Transit is starting out at $57k, but it has a battery pack, the Kangoo does not. The Kangoo pack is expected to be around 22 kWh so that is around $11,000, though by the time the ZE Kangoo comes out the pack prices will probably be 8% less than they are now. Yeah, they will probably have some sort of lease deal on the pack, but the cost is still there, it is just structured differently. The Transit has an advantage in power, 75 hp to 59 for the Kangoo, but the Transit is probably worth $4,000 more than a Kangoo, given that the Transit can haul a payload that is around 30% bigger than a Kangoo. They are apples and oranges, or more accurately, they are sub-compact vs. mid-size, delivery vans. The Transit is around 3 feet longer, a foot taller and 5 or 6 inches wider. It costs more because it can haul more. But if you want a smaller van, the Kangoo will work really well in crowded European city centers.
          lne937s
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Ziv
          The price I listed is for the Maxi, the regular version is about 1000 GBP less, 16,990 GBP or about $26,760 before taxes and incentives.
          lne937s
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Ziv
          Ziv. The Transit Connect has a cargo capacity of 3.8 m3 and a payload capacity of 410 kg. While there is a smaller version in some markets, the Kangoo ZE available in the UK has a cargo capacity of between 4 and 4.6 m3 with a payload capacity of 650 kg. The Kangoo is a larger vehicle with more payload capacity, so the majority of your argument is just false. The regular diesel Kangoo costs more than a comparable Transit Connect-- it is a newer, more capable and more upscale vehicle. The ZE it is a factory-built EV, versus a 3rd-party conversion. It has more range, better charging capabilities and better optimization of the drivetrain. The Kangoo ZE costs ~$28,000 in the UK before subsidies and the battery costs ~$99 a month. So, you would have to get almost a quarter century from the Transit Connect and it's original battery to cover the difference-- not including any maintenance or replacement costs. On the Kangoo, you could get new batteries every 4 years, with no associated maintenance costs, potentially upgrading along the way as technology improves. From a business perspective, lower costs overall and pre-set maintenance costs makes more sense. http://corporate.ford.com/news-center/press-releases-detail/pr-transit-connect-electric-makes-34137 http://www.renault-ze.com/en-gb/gamme-voitures-electriques-renault-z.e./kangoo-van-maxi-z.e./presentation-60373.html
          Joeviocoe
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Ziv
          "A company will look at total cost of ownership. That does not always equate with purchase cost. " -Tweaker So true, it needs to be reposted!
          DaveMart
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Ziv
          There is also a 5-seater Maxi crewvan: http://www.renault-ze.com/en-gb/gamme-voitures-electriques-renault-z.e./kangoo-van-maxi-crew-van-z.e/presentation-60381.html In the UK commercial vehicles are not eligible for subsidy
          Ziv
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Ziv
          I didn't even know that the Kangoo came in two sizes, the Kangoo ZE and the Kangoo Maxi ZE. The Maxi is 4.6m and the Kangoo ZE is 4.2m. Are they both going to be sold for the same price even though the Maxi is bigger? The Renault site I found said that it had a cargo capacity up to 3.5 m3 and up to 650 kilos. The Transit Electric is around 129.5 cu ft or 3.67 m3 and 1050 pounds or 476 kilos. So the regular Kangoo vs. the regular Transit Electric has a small advantage to the Transit and a large advantage to the Kangoo, and if the stretch Maxi Kangoo is added to the mix the Transit comes out further behind. The data I skimmed before my first answer was incomplete/wrong. http://www.renault-ze.com/en-gb/gamme-voitures-electriques-renault-z.e./kangoo-van-maxi-z.e./presentation-60373.html
      mexicanjetta
      • 5 Months Ago
      Ehhhh, ok
      Tweaker
      • 5 Months Ago
      It's "smooth, fast, quite, clean and comfy," Quiet. A company will look at total cost of ownership. That does not always equate with purchase cost. The Kangaroo may be a wonderful vehicle but it is not available in NA.
      fairfireman21
      • 5 Months Ago
      $50,000 for something that has such a limited range is outragious. It does have great cargo room but for $50k.
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