Ford could be first with lithium-ion on all-electric U.S. van/wagon

  • 15-Jun-2009 11:24 EDT

Lithium-ion battery electric powertrains will be installed in Ford Transit Connect by Smith Electric Vehicles at a new plant in Kansas City, MO. Shown is a prototype. Production models go on sale early in the second quarter of 2010.


­The first all-electric commercial van/wagon with a lithium-ion battery pack and a 100-mi (160-km) range to go on sale in the U.­S. is likely to be a Ford Transit Connect, scheduled for introduction early in the second quarter of next year. The gasoline-engine version of the small van/wagon, made in Turkey, is just going on sale here.

­The Transit Connect initially will be converted to an all-electric powertrain in a new plant at the Kansas City, MO, airport, operated by English specialist Smith Electric Vehicles. It will remove the gasoline powertrain and return it to the Turkish plant.  Once the U.S. plant is in full operation, the vehicle without powertrain, will come on a sled for completion.  Projected production figures were not available, nor is pricing. The gasoline version base price is $20,780.

The 100-mi range will be provided by a 28-kW·h liquid-cooled lithium-ion iron phosphate battery pack. Because the Transit Connect is intended for urban delivery service, it also will be available with a 21-kW·h pack rated for about a 70-mi (113-km) range. The battery pack scheduled for initial use is rated for a minimum life of five years.

Top speed for the all-electric is 70 mph (113 km/h). Recharge time (at 220 V) is 6-8 h.

Smith Electric Vehicles will have a sister plant for a similar European-market all-electric conversion in England, and the plan is to have it in operation concurrently with the U.S. facility. All-electric passenger vehicles from other manufacturers are not expected to be sold in the U.S. until later next year.

The standard Transit Connect is 180.7 in (4590 mm) long and powered by a 2.0-L four-cylinder rated at 136 hp (101 kW) and 128 lb·ft (174 N·m) with U.S. EPA fuel economy of 22 city/25 highway. The vehicle is being imported with a second row of seats so it is not subject to the imported truck "chicken" tax.

Cargo payload is 1600 lb (726 kg) with the gasoline engine and 1400 lb (635 kg) with the all-electric powertrain. The 1600-lb rating is close to some full-size pickup trucks, and the all-electric's 1400-lb rating is just a modest 12% lower.

The Transit Connect is being offered in both van (no rear windows) and wagon configurations. Ford expects that most vehicles imported into the U.S. will be configured for van use and so will remove the rear seats at port of entry and send them to a recycling plant. However, Ford Marketing Manager Doug Scott noted that the availability of the all-electric powertrain and 100-mi range does give Ford the opportunity to import Transit Connects with rear windows (currently available in Europe). For those vehicles, it would leave in the seats and market the vehicle as a commuter wagon.

Smith will be responsible for supplying and integrating the system, including controls into the Transit Connect, with Ford engineering support. Smith claims to be the world's largest producer of commercial electric vehicles.

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