Dear Electricity, Trucks to Be You, Love Ford

Ford takes different tact than GM

By Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010  |  Updated 5:15 PM CDT
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Turn the key on the new Ford Transit Connect Electric and nothing happens.

But two seconds later, the little delivery van springs to life. When you step on the accelerator, the first all-electric commercial truck from Detroit seems just like its gasoline-powered cousins. There is a gradual application of power and the responsiveness you’d expect from a cargo hauler.

What you don’t expect is the quiet.

The only noises in this typically noisy, un-insulated, white-box of a truck seem to be coming from the tires as they roll over the pavement around McCormick Place.

“Its something to get used to,” says Ron Iacobelli of Azure Dynamics, the company that designed the drive train for Ford.  “It’s made us work extra hard on quieting down some of the other noises you hear in the vehicle like the cooling pumps and steering pumps we added.”

The changes on the popular Transit connect van are subtle.

There is a special electric receptacle where the gas cap would be and the fuel gauge has been replaced by an indicator showing your battery charge level. That’s it. If it weren't for the decals on the side of this demo vehicle, you would never know you were driving an electric truck.

That’s just how Ford wants it.

“Part of the goal was to mimic the baseline vehicle performance,” Iacobelli says, “the difference is we limit the top speed to 75 miles an hour.”

This version of the Transit connect has an 80 mile range. Other versions are available with gas engines and even a taxi version that runs on compressed natural gas.

“There are environmentally friendly alternatives to internal combustion vehicles.” Says Ford’s Duane Grider. The Transit Connect Electric is trying to find that niche. “It seems the market is ready now,” says Iacobelli, “with gas prices and investments in battery technology, we are ready to introduce a sustainable electric vehicle now.”

As we pull the Transit Connect up to McCormick Place and park in near the curb, we notice another advantage to the size and shape of this little electric:

It’s much easier than a typical delivery van to park.

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