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Ford electric van squeaks in at deadline

One element of Ford's vehicle electrification program kept to its timetable, when Ford partners completed and shipped the first samples of battery-driven Transit Connect Electric vans just as 2010 approached its end.

Ford Motor Co. announced on December 7 that its program partner, AM General, began shipping electric-drive versions of Ford's Transit Connect panel truck to early customers. The deliveries keep the project on schedule. When it was first publicized in October 2009, Ford's Transit Connect electric-vehicle (EV) program committed to start shipments by the end of 2010.

The project teams Ford with Azure Dynamics Corp., Detroit, MI, a specialist in electric and gasoline/electric vehicle propulsion. Their goal is to develop and produce a zero-emissions version of the Transit Connect, called the Transit Connect Electric, by replacing the work truck's conventional, internal-combustion engine and front-drive transmission setup with Azure's Force Drive battery-powered drivetrain.

AM General, Livonia, MI, a maker of military vehicles and specialized commercial vehicles, was selected to perform the refitting of the drive system at least partly because of government financial enticement. In its December 7 press release announcing the first Transit Connect Electric shipments, Ford noted, “the Michigan Economic Development Corporation provided incentive funding for Azure Dynamics to encourage selection of a Michigan-based partner for final assembly.”

In the press announcement, the Dearborn, MI, auto company noted that the Transit EV is the initial product in an accelerated EV schedule. Ford expects to follow the Transit Connect Electric with the Focus Electric passenger car in 2011, and then a plug-in electric car and two lithium-ion battery-driven hybrids the following year, in 2012.

The Transit Connect Electric models completed in December 2010 are going to companies that Ford identifies as “early customers,” including AT&T, Southern California Edison, Xcel Energy, Johnson Controls Inc., New York Power Authority, Canada Post and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund EV300. In addition, the venture will deliver 14 of the EVs to a government sponsored demonstration program in the United Kingdom. Supported by the utility company Scottish and Southern Energy, the Ultra-Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator, as the program is called, will test a fleet of zero-emission vehicles and their support infrastructure.

Ford expects full production of the Transit Connect Electric to begin ramping up in April 2011. The company noted that the program partners have already committed to delivering EV vans to Europe in 2011.