Azure Ford Transit Connect Electric

Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Van? was given early access to Ford’s new Transit electric vehicle that was developed in conjunction with the company’s global EV partner, Canadian firm Azure Dynamics.

Orders are being taken now for delivery in June or July for the Azure Ford Transit Connect Electric that will arrive at around the same time as Renault’s Kangoo ZE EV. Like the Renault there’s no loss to load volume for the electric version, as the battery is fitted under the floor. Payload does drop though, by around 125kg to 465kg. The lithium-ion battery will give a range of around 80 miles or a top speed of 75mph, but not at the same time, and can be charged in six to eight hours.
There’s plenty of power, despite the battery being of a lower output than the Kangoo. The 28kWh unit doesn’t struggle to keep up with traffic flow, even at higher speed, and provides enough instant surge to pick your way through city traffic, which is where these electric vehicles will spend the majority of their lives. In fact, Azure says the EV version produces more power and torque than a 110hp diesel Connect.
It’s also interesting that Ford has gone down a different route to Renault with the regenerative braking that provides a little boost to the battery by gathering energy when the van is slowing. While the French van’s system is so harsh that drivers will only rarely need the brakes, the Connect is more subtle, and while it admittedly doesn’t regenerate as much energy, equally doesn’t require the driver to adapt to a new driving style, as it feels more like a normal internal combustion engine vehicle.
While the market for EVs will be small initially, pricing will be important, given Renault shocked the industry by coming in below £17,000 plus VAT, even if owners will then have to lease the battery separately for around £60 per month. Ford will only say its vehicle will come in at around £40,000, but has confirmed the it will be sold complete with the battery included, either bought outright or leased though a select number of dealers, although that may expand as volumes grow. The early customers will fall into three groups – companies with a green agenda, those who have seen fuel costs spiral, and those working in cities where EVs make operational sense through incentives, such as congestion charge exemption.
There will only be a specialist few businesses that can at this stage justify the trip into the unknown that accompanies taking on an electric vehicle, but the reality of driving these new models shows there really is less to be scared of than some may have predicted. Range anxiety will be the biggest initial problem, but for vehicles that run a set route, or never cover more than about 60 miles per day, and come back to a base where they can be charged each and every night, range won’t be an issue, and the transition will be smooth for the drivers. As long as the costs stack
up (the primary concern is pricing because servicing costs are tiny compared with diesel or petrol alternatives) then one future vehicle solution for businesses, in the right circumstances, could be almost here.

 

Verdict
EVs are increasingly heading towards normalised status. Price is still too high for many, but cost of operation over longer periods will help claw that back



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