Friday, February 19, 2010

First Look: 2011 Ford Transit Connect Electric and Taxi

At this week's 2010 Chicago auto show, Ford is introducing no less than three new propulsion options for its Ford Transit Connect commercial vehicle workhorse, along with showcasing a Taxi version of the vehicle that could serve as Ford's eventual replacement for its long-serving Crown Victoria.

Included in the Transit Connect's expanded powertrain mix is the long-expected EV version featuring a lithium-ion battery pack, along with compressed natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas-powered models. Ford says all of them will be available at the end of the year and claims the biggest benefit of the new options are reduced operating costs -- which Ford believes will be music to commercial fleet owner's ears.

First up: The Transit Connect Electric. It's the first entry in Ford's aggressive electric vehicle strategy, going into production in late 2010. Following it will be an electric Focus in 2011 and an unnamed plug-in hybrid model in 2012.

This Transit Connect uses a liquid-cooled, lithium-ion battery pack supplied by Azure Dynamics, a company that specializes in electric powertrains for commercial vehicles. The connection between Azure and Ford is a budding one. Azure's Balance Hybrid Electric is a medium-duty commercial truck based off the Ford E-450.

In the Transit Connect, its 28-kilowatt-hour "Force Drive" powertrain boasts an 80-mile range and a top speed of 75 mph. If the range seems low, consider the Transit Connect EV is aimed at "fleet owners that have well-defined routes of predictable distances and a central location for daily recharging," as Ford's press release says.

When the juice runs try, the charge port above the passenger rear wheel can be connected to a 240-volt or standard 120-volt outlet. A full charge takes six to eight hours, and Ford estimates the pack will last the lifespan of the vehicle. The battery pack doesn't impede on space either, as the Transit Connect Electric still boasts 135 cu-ft of cargo volume with 59.1-in of load height and 47.8-in of width between the wheel arches.


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