Already on the road and silently running, Ford venture into electric vehicles has already begun. With five electric models from the US car maker planned to launch in Europe by 2013, our reporter Tom Stewart gets behind the wheel of Ford’s first fully electric offering…
By Tom Stewart
I’ve recently been reminded that, almost regardless of battery type, motor or body-style, in my experience EVs are remarkably relaxing and pleasant to drive in a congested urban or low-speed environment, assuming you have sufficient volts left ‘in the tank’ of course… And the new Transit Connect Electric is no exception.
The Transit Connect Electric is the first of five new ‘electrified’ vehicles Ford is bringing to market in Europe by 2013. These include the Focus Electric (coming next year), the C-MAX Hybrid and the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid.
Developed by Ford and Azure Dynamics Corp, the Transit Connect Electric has a top speed of 75mph and a range of up to 80 miles. Its 28kWh lithium ion battery pack can be charged from empty in about eight hours from a standard 220-240v outlet.
Although the example I drove was a 5-seater combi with rear side windows, in the UK the Transit Connect Electric is only available as a commercial van as they’re more likely to travel predictable, short-range routes with frequent stop and go driving than the average family. Or indeed the courier driver who may at short notice need to take on a long-distance job…
Its operation from the driver’s perspective is much like a petrol or diesel automatic. There’s a conventional stick on the floor with P-RND21. (The ‘2’ and ‘1’ are from the conventional Transit Connect as the electric Transit’s transmission is a single-speed Borg-Warner unit.)
To start, insert key in column, select ‘P’, turn key ‘til it stops and hold for a second or so. At this point there’s faint audible whirring, so select ‘D’ and away you go, accompanied only by an unobtrusive electrical whine and a little tyre noise. In place of the usual rev-counter there’s a large, easily read analogue range meter with its red line at the other end of the scale.
This Transit has a claimed 0-62 time of 12 seconds, but, in common with the other EVs I’ve driven, and notwithstanding my minimal test-drive payload, it feels much more energetic than that due to its continuous 158Nm or 235Nm (173lb/ft) peak torque delivery.
The electric Transit has been quietly on sale since May this year from Ford-owned dealerships in London, Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds, and it's a fleet-only proposition. Its eye-watering price of £39,995 would almost buy two top-spec 1.8 TDCi Transit Connects, so fleet managers thinking of going electric would need to be very diligent with their calculators prior to purchase. Either that or their firms operate a ‘we’re green and damn the cost’ policy. So, pleasant though this and other EVs may be around town, zero emissions (at the point of use) still don’t come cheap.