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Ford Transit Connect Electric  (Source: Ford Motor Company)
Ford is on a roll these days and the Transit Connect Electric is a part of the company's "green" future

When it comes to electric vehicles, DailyTech has mostly covered the consumer side of things. General Motors is going full steam ahead with its Volt "extended range" electric vehicle, Nissan is developing its all-electric Leaf, and Tesla is hitting a higher price point with its Roadster and Model S all-electric vehicles.

However, all-electric vehicles aren't just limited to the consumer market -- they can also make sense for the commercial market as well. A year ago today, DailyTech first brought you news that Ford would introduce an electric version of its small but capable Transit Connect commercial van. Ford is making good on that promise and today announced the 2011 Transit Connect Electric.

The 2011 Ford Transit Connect Electric was developed in conjunction with Azure Dynamics Corporation and uses a "Force Drive" electric powertrain. The vehicle uses a 50 kW electric motor and the 28 kWh lithium-ion battery pack -- developed in conjunction with Johnson Controls-Saft -- allows the Transit Connect Electric to travel up to 80 miles on a charge. Top speed for the vehicle is 75 mph, so don't expect the Transit Connect Electric to keep up with Atlanta highway traffic anytime soon.

Ford says that the Transit Connect Electric can be recharged from either 120V or 240V outlets.

Transit Connect Electric exemplifies how we are leveraging our relationships as well as our hybrid and advanced powertrain programs to bring energy-efficient technologies from the laboratory to the street,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “Not only is this an ideal vehicle for eco-conscious fleet operators, it is an important part of Ford’s future.”

"These vehicles actually are meant for specific types of customers that have a predictable drive route, continued Praveen Cherian, Program Manager of the Transit Connect. Most of our customers have said, look we don't drive more than 50-60 miles on a give day and these commercial customers like, for example, florists or a handyman, plumber, or a Best Buy Geek Squad, utility type purposes vehicle… so we've designed this vehicle to have a range of 80 miles on a full state of charge."

Even with a large lithium-ion battery packed into the Transit Connect Electric's compact frame, the 181-inch vehicle still has 135 cu-ft of cargo space which is almost as much as a Chevrolet Suburban.

Ford has not announced pricing for the Transit Connect Electric yet, but do expect to pay a premium for the luxury of not having to worry about using gasoline anymore. The base price of a standard Transit Connect is $20,780, so let's hope that Ford can keep the price of the Transit Connect Electric below $30,000.

Following the launch of the Transit Connect Electric, Ford says that it will also launch an all-electric version of its next generation Focus next year.



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RE: Luddites
By Yawgm0th on 2/9/2010 11:25:56 AM , Rating: 2
This is DT. Half the residents here would complain about Ford because it is based in the US and we have a government.

That said, anything with EVs is going to see government subsidies on the final price and probably research grants as well. The truth is that most of the car companies would not be bringing anything to market before, say 2015 or 2020, if it weren't for public money. Even then, what they bring won't see any sort of wide-scale adoption until probably the 20s because it's still not economically self-sustaining. Gas needs to hit $5/gallon in current dollars, if not more, before plug-ins start making a lot of sense. Even hybrids are barely feasible with gas under $3/gal.

I'm all for the progress of technology and protecting the environment, but the truth is this is a direction we're being taken in prematurely, and not by Ford or the market or necessity. It's very much government-driven, and regardless of the principle behind that, it's not the right direction for us economically or environmentally.


RE: Luddites
By Fozzie on 2/9/2010 11:53:09 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree, but obviously this is a very gray issue that is hard to prove one way or another. We can do arm chair calculations till out keyboards break, but I doubt either of us (though I may be wrong) is in the position of having a fleet of delivery vehicles that this is targeted at.

This particular area is a perfect example. There is specifically a need out there for transit like electric fleet vehicles and Ford is far from the only one bringing products to the market. Smith Electric is just one example. Why else do you think the Post office is looking so closely at this? And no it isn't a new Obama thing, they have been looking at electrics for years and it is specifically LiFePO4 batteries that are allowing it to be cost effective.

Electric fleet vehicles in the right applications can save money right now on fuel costs even including the price premium AND save significantly on maintenance expenses.

BTW, why such the hate for Public sector investment in new technology? Actually I don't mind if it is consistent statement. But the same people I see calling for government investment in private space flight for example will decry a $7500 expiring tax credit on EVs.

Also where were these people when the Bush "Stimulus plan" in 2003 allowed for a $100,000 (!!!!!) tax deduction for businesses buying SUV's?


RE: Luddites
By AEvangel on 2/9/2010 12:40:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Also where were these people when the Bush "Stimulus plan" in 2003 allowed for a $100,000 (!!!!!) tax deduction for businesses buying SUV's?


I was right here complaining that Bush was one of the most socialist president we have ever had.

People need to realize that the only difference between Bush and Obama is the color of their skin. Point being that Republicans and Democrats both support bigger govt and less freedom they just do it with with different actions.


RE: Luddites
By Yawgm0th on 2/9/2010 2:01:12 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I disagree, but obviously this is a very gray issue that is hard to prove one way or another.
It's not hard to prove that a $30,000 (after $7,500 subsidy) car is unaffordable by the vast majority of consumers. Solar power is similarly nonviable by any calculation. These aren't new technologies about to go throw leaps and bounds. They follow fairly predictable cycles, with continual, incremental price reductions. There's absolutely nothing that indicates EVs are about to advance to a point where they are 30-60% cheaper, and subsidizing the current generation isn't going to get them there much faster.

quote:
This particular area is a perfect example. There is specifically a need out there for transit like electric fleet vehicles and Ford is far from the only one bringing products to the market. Smith Electric is just one example. Why else do you think the Post office is looking so closely at this? And no it isn't a new Obama thing, they have been looking at electrics for years and it is specifically LiFePO4 batteries that are allowing it to be cost effective.
They're close because of heavy subsidies. Even so, at 50% increased price they simply do not save money. Gas is not expensive enough. Virtually any electric car needs to hit between 250,000 and 500,000 miles to save on energy costs compared to its gas version.

Hybrids are just barely at the point where they can ever save money over a similar non-hybrid. If hybrids were subsidized at even half the level of EVs, it would probably result in ten times the national fuel consumption reduction as every plug-in coming to market in 2010/2011 combined simply because of how many people would buy them.

quote:

BTW, why such the hate for Public sector investment in new technology? Actually I don't mind if it is consistent statement. But the same people I see calling for government investment in private space flight for example will decry a $7500 expiring tax credit on EVs.
I have no hate for public investment in principle, although a lot of DT members would claim to (until it comes to defense or space flight, yes). The problem is that a $7,500 tax credit is subsidizing the relatively wealthy. It's trickle-down economics taken to a sick level, with the environment being used as an excuse. I am against this instance of the investment, not the principle of it.


RE: Luddites
By Fozzie on 2/9/2010 9:36:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It's not hard to prove that a $30,000 (after $7,500 subsidy) car is unaffordable by the vast majority of consumers.


Its a ridiculous benchmark because hundred of thousands if not millions of cars are already selling for more then $37,500. I hope your not trying to claim that you can't sell a car for $37,500. Plenty of those cars that sell for more then $37k are priced as such for reasons that may be entirely spurious to sections of the market (performance or image for example).

A Doctor friend of mine just put $1k down for a Volt. He did this because he wants the car. The same basic reason another Doctor I know spent over 50k on a BMW. The first Doc knows he won't ultimately save money on gas over other sedans. The point is he WANTS the car, proof of a market.

BTW, the Ford above is not directed at "consumers" it is directed at companies with a fleet to maintain. You've taken that out of context and created a straw-man arguement. I never tried to claim that it was affordable "by the vast majority of consumers", and I don't think that has ANYTHING to do with whether a technology can sell. Should we use that benchmark for video cards or proccessors?

No one is waiting for a miracle technology. The point is that the battery technology (for example LiFeP04 or LiMN) is here now and you can make a viable vehicle for a significant part of the market RIGHT NOW. And there absolutely is a gain to be made from having solid public sector support such as DOE grants. I live right in the middle of it in West Michigan where two large Lithium battery plants are in the process of being built/converted. This will allow for significantly more competitive prices in the domestic market lowering prices even more. Something that would not have happened without government support.

You and I both know that sometimes technologies will never get developed if an artificial demand doesn't prompt it. Where would we be with air travel if WWII hadn't massively pushed airplane technology along. Nuclear power! Would we have it without the Manhattan project? How many technologies would we NOT have if it weren't for the space race or defense spending? Or how about the freaking internet? Would it exist without Darpa?

The point is we don't know if they would or not, some certainly would have been developed, some may not have been. But we have them NOW without a shadow of a doubt because of what DID happen. Now I AM NOT claiming that the government should have a hand in everything with uncontrolled spending. However the other extreme is that anything the government has a hand in is bad, and its just as wrong.

Anyone that is claiming that the technology isn't ready.. Explain the car above! The proof is in the pudding! If the technology wasn't "ready", then why does that car exist? Only because of a tiny volume based expiring tax credit? If it sells then the technology is ready! You may not buy one, you may not think it is worth the money. You may think everyone is a fool for buying one.. Point is if the product exists and sells then the technology is ready.

Look at Nissan, they have basically bet the company on electric. They have invested millions and millions into developing and testing EV technology and they say it is ready to go. Wanna bet against them? If you really think they are putting all of that based on a single tax credit in one country then... Well then I'm not wasting anymore of my time arguing with you.

BTW, if anyone claims that electrics aren't ready and then advocates for Hydrogen Fuel cells... I don't even know where to start with that one.

quote:
I have no hate for public investment in principle, although a lot of DT members would claim to (until it comes to defense or space flight, yes). The problem is that a $7,500 tax credit is subsidizing the relatively wealthy. It's trickle-down economics taken to a sick level, with the environment being used as an excuse. I am against this instance of the investment, not the principle of it.


Well then please ignore the previous rant.. It wasn't directed at you. :) My apologies! I do understand where you are coming from. However any new technology will start out on the more expensive side. But a $30k Volt or a $20-something Leaf is not exactly a premium super car at that price range.

Also the government certainly has an interest in the development of transportation technologies and a reduction in the use of gasoline. There is already significant subsidy towards gasoline, such as tax breaks for oil companies, "defense" spending directed at the middle east and externalities like air pollution.

I would also put money down that the total government investment thru the $7,500 tax credit will not overtake spending on Hydrogen fuel cells anytime in the next decade.

Finally, I think its funny that so many people have panned the viability of this and there is absolutely no mention of price in the above article.


RE: Luddites
By Yawgm0th on 2/10/2010 1:50:21 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Its a ridiculous benchmark because hundred of thousands if not millions of cars are already selling for more then $37,500. I hope your not trying to claim that you can't sell a car for $37,500.
It's not ridiculous because tens of millions of cars sell in the $15K to $25K price range, compared to hundreds of thousands, maybe a few million in the $30K to $40K range.

Regardless, the cars in those range sell for luxury. Not frequently as fleet vehicles (not in the market for this article or cab companies or most sedan fleets). Even as fleet vehicles, 30% to 60% cost increase is not justifiable, period. For the consumer market, the $32,750 Volt is the only practical plug-in, but is out of the price range for the vast majority of consumers, and that's after a $7,500 tax incentive. It won't sell well because only rich environmentalists can buy it.

Your doctor friend is a good anecdote, but proves the pointlessness of anecdotes. He's one rather well-to-do person who doesn't represent a substantial portion of the country. Even if everyone making $100,000 went out and got a volt, we would be better off if everyone making less than $80,000 could go buy a hybrid. More fuel is saved. We're talking about 20-50% fuel savings for tens of millions of vehicles instead of the same percentage for a million or two. I don't feel the need to do any deep research on the exact numbers, because we're talking a whole order of magnitude here.

I am speaking in general terms, with this article as the catalyst for the conversation. I'm not trying to create a straw man at all. The vehicle described in this article will probably cost in the low 30s after a tax incentive. If the ICE alternative is in the low 20s, then it's not viable for fleet use or consumer use. End of story. This is true with the Volt as well, with some hybrids (Fusion), every Tesla, and will probably be true with Leaf.

I won't argue the principal that sometimes the government must create an artificial demand for a technology to get it developed, or even finance it directly. Obviously there are some great examples. The problem is that I DO believe plug-ins are a viable technology on their own with far less government financing than what we're seeing now. I don't believe throwing more money at this particular technology is going to make it viable any faster. Battery and plug-in technology is going to progress on a slow, almost predictable cycle, much like processors. Much like processors, throwing money at the research is going to have greatly diminishing returns past a certain point, and we're way past that point. The tech needs five or ten years to advance, and subsidizing relatively wealthy companies and individuals is not going to change that. It's not going to help the economy, and I've already pointed out how much more we could reduce fuel consumption and help the environment in doing so.

I don't know about others, but I would claim the technology isn't "ready" only in the sense of economic viability. If Ford can sell this thing en masse without a subsidy than I will eat my words. Chances are, though, that even with an outrageous subsidy it will get relatively small market share.

quote:

Also the government certainly has an interest in the development of transportation technologies and a reduction in the use of gasoline. There is already significant subsidy towards gasoline, such as tax breaks for oil companies, "defense" spending directed at the middle east and externalities like air pollution.
I agree with you. From an economics and environmental standpoint, the pollution from cars must be dealt with. But any economist will tell you there is a limit to how much you can spend on pollution control. To quote my professor from college, "Some pollution is good. You need to have some pollution". The amount we're spending now is getting to be too much, or at least it isn't spend effectively. We're trying to force a 2020 solution in 2010. Instead, this money could be used to subsidy hybrid cars and efficient diesels. If every middle class urban/suburban resident switches out their sedan, coupe, or SUV for a similar hybrid over then next ten years, the reduction in fuel consumption will be huge. Air quality would increase noticeably, and as some of those hybrids slowly transitioned into to plug-ins, we would be making an affordable, mass market, incremental change to electric vehicles. Forcing electric now is expensive and ineffective, and we'll see hybrid adoption rates suffer because of it.


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