Future CV products at Ford include new Transit van and plug-in trucks

  • 16-Dec-2011 09:15 EST
Transit Van.jpg

North American customers will see a Transit van in 2013. The current European version of the Transit van is shown.

Ford Motor Co. is prepping a next-generation Transit van for the North American market as part of ongoing upgrades to its commercial vehicle (CV) lineup. In the 2013 calendar year, the updated Transit will join the automaker's other Class 1 through Class 7 CV offerings.

The next-generation Transit will be at least 300 lb (136 kg) lighter than today's E-Series van and provide a minimum 25% fuel-economy improvement, Derrick Kuzak, Group Vice President of Ford's Global Product Development, said at a Dec. 7 commercial vehicles media event at the company's Dearborn, MI, Product Development Center.

According to Rob Stevens, Ford's Chief Program Engineer for Commercial Vehicles, the Transit van eventually will replace the E-Series full-size van in the North American marketplace following an undetermined period of overlap between the nameplates.

"E-Series Cutaway and Stripped Chassis body-on-frame products will continue to be produced for years. Those vehicles have a higher GVW—up to 14,500 lb—and are made with a C-channel frame for up-fitters," Stevens told SAE Magazines.

The Transit van's unibody is an underlying reason for the vehicle being lighter weight than an E-Series counterpart.

"We're not elaborating at this point on the powertrain for the Transit van, but between the powertrain and the unibody, that's really where we'll achieve the approximate 300 lb of weight savings," Stevens said.

The current Transit van is offered in three different wheelbases, four different body lengths, and three different roof heights.

"The E-Series has one wheelbase and one roof height," Stevens said, referring to the E-150, E-250 Super Duty, and E-350 Super Duty regular and extended-length configurations.

Ford is investing $1.1 billion to retrofit one-half of its Kansas City Assembly Plant to accommodate the production of the Transit van for the North American market. (Production of F-150 light-duty pickup trucks will be unaffected by the facility upgrades.)

The automaker currently sells its Transit van outside the North American market in various cargo, passenger, and chassis cab configurations with a choice of three diesel engines—a 2.2-L four-cylinder, a 2.4-L four-cylinder, and a 3.2-L five-cylinder.

Transit Connect, Transit Connect Electric, and Transit Connect Taxi are C-Class commercial vans. All have sold globally for a decade. In the U.S. market, the Transit Connect launched in MY2010 while the Transit Connect Electric and Transit Connect Taxi launched in MY2011.

Beginning in the second quarter of 2012, the Ford Super Duty F-650 medium-duty truck will offer a gasoline engine variant. The 6.8-L, three-valve V10 producing 362 hp (270 kW) and 457 lb·ft (620 N·m) of torque is the same engine that powers the F-450/F-550 Super Duty chassis cabs as well as the F-53 (Class A motor home chassis) and F-59 (Step Van Chassis).

"But this is the first time that we've coupled the 6R140 six-speed automatic transmission from the Super Duty 6.7-L Power Stroke V8 diesel with this gas engine. We'll also be looking to do this combination on other commercial-vehicle applications," said Stevens.

For durability purposes, the transmission for the F-650 includes an extra set of pinions to the main drive gear.

"We've also done a lot of work on the calibration between the engine and the transmission to make the driveability function smoothly with a 30,000-lb GVW truck," Stevens said.

Ford partnered with Azure Dynamics to develop the Transit Connect Electric and the E-Series Stripped Chassis Hybrid and is also working with Azure to develop a plug-in hybrid-electric (PHEV) Super Duty F-450/F-550.

Azure's trademarked Balance Hybrid system—which includes an integrated starter/generator (ISG), clutched front engine accessory drive, ISG motor controller, traction motor controller, traction motor, and energy storage system—is the technology centerpiece for the F-450/F-550 PHEV.

According to Jim Mancuso, Azure's Vice President of Current Product Engineering, "Over the next few months for the F-450/F-550 PHEV product development, Azure will be focusing on modeling, system integration, and packaging tasks as well as making decisions on major component applications and suppliers."

Azure also will gather additional field data on appropriate vehicles and applications to facilitate optimization of the hybrid system. The initial application for the F-450/F-550 PHEV is utility bucket vehicles.

Said Stevens, "With this PHEV application, utility workers can move the bucket up and down to work on power lines without the engine running. And because the truck doesn't require an idling engine to raise or lower the bucket, the fuel savings will be tremendous."

Production for the F-450/F-550 PHEV likely will start in 2014 with a few pre-production units expected in late 2013, according to Mancuso.

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