Ford moves forward with EV strategy

Ford delivers first electric Transit Connect vehicles.

December 9, 2010
by Purchasingb2b Staff

DEARBORN, MI: Ford Motor Company and Azure Dynamics have begun shipping the first Ford Transit Connect Electrics to customers in North America and to the UK for a demonstration project.

The all-electric commercial vans, built on the Ford Transit Connect vehicle body, equipped with Azure Dynamics’s Force Drive battery electric powertrain, and assembled by AM General at its facility in Livonia, Michigan, are reaching the market 13 months after the collaboration to develop the zero-emission vehicle was first announced.

All the initial units have designated customers. Azure Dynamics’ LEAD customer program includes seven companies that are taking delivery of their first units in 2010, with the remainder of their orders to be filled in 2011. Customers include Canada Post and Toronto Atmospheric Fund EV300, AT&T, Southern California Edison, Xcel Energy, Johnson Controls Inc and New York Power Authority. Additional LEAD customers will be identified by the end of the year.

Ford first announced the collaboration in October 2009, with an agreement for Azure Dynamics to upfit the Transit Connect van with Azure’s Force Drive battery electric drivetrain technology including Johnson Controls-Saft’s advanced lithium-ion battery, and a commitment to deliver the initial vehicles by the end of 2010 to the North American market. Initial production began in the fourth quarter of 2010 with full production of the Transit Connect Electric slated to ramp up in April 2011.

The all-electric, zero-emissions Transit Connect Electric has a driving range of up to 130km per full charge and is ideal for fleet owners who have well-defined routes of predictable distances and a central location for daily recharging. Delivery fleet and utility vehicle operators have begun to show a preference for smaller, more efficient vehicles, which creates an ideal time for Transit Connect Electric to come to market.

“The Transit Connect provides a unique choice for the fleet owner who wants the convenience of a utility vehicle,” Marakby said. “The electric version takes that one step further, delivering a dependable, zero-tailpipe-emission vehicle that requires no petroleum.”

Owners will have the option of recharging Transit Connect Electric with either a standard 120-volt outlet, or preferably a 240-volt charge station, typically 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 convenient recharging at either voltage.

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 to a power outlet. Inside the vehicle, an onboard charger converts AC power from the electric grid to DC power to charge the battery pack.

Transit Connect Electric is expected to offer lower cost of operation, because charging with electricity is generally less expensive than fueling with gasoline.

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 12-volt battery, which powers the vehicle’s various accessories, such as headlights, power steering and coolant pumps.

In Transit Connect Electric, the battery pack has been efficiently integrated without compromising interior passenger room and cargo space. The Johnson Controls-Saft battery pack is expected to last the life of the vehicle.

Transit Connect Electric is the first product in Ford’s accelerated electrified vehicle plan, and will be followed by the Focus Electric passenger car in 2011, along with a plug-in hybrid electric and two next-generation lithium-ion battery-powered hybrid vehicles in 2012.