Ford Motor Co plans to sell a battery electric powered Transit Connect light work van in North America next year, the first step in electrification plans announced last month, the automaker said on Monday.
This is the first time Ford has said which of its products will feature a battery-electric powered counterpart. The automaker intends to introduce a battery-electric powered small car in 2011 followed by a plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2012. Ford is showing off the petrol-powered Transit Connect, starting at $21, 475, at the Chicago Auto Show on Wednesday.
Ford's Transit Connect is aimed at the small business owner since it is closer to a van - 6-feet, 8-inches tall - than a full-sized pickup truck. It has a two- liter, four-cylinder engine and the cargo-space can be fitted with shelving, racks and bins to fit the customer's need. The Transit Connect will be imported from Kocaeli, Turkey.
Ford is bringing several others of its European vehicles to the US, including the Ford Fiesta, a subcompact and the European version of the Focus.
Ford is collaborating with Smith Electric Vehicles, a unit of the Tanfield Group on the battery-electric Transit Connect. Smith has been converting vehicles to battery electric power for nearly 90 years and already offers a battery electric version of Ford's Transit medium commercial vehicle to fleet customers in Britain and some European markets, Ford said.
The battery electric version of the Transit Connect is expected to have a range of up to 100 miles. Ford is bringing a gasoline-powered Transit Connect built in Turkey to the US this summer targeted specifically at small business owners. Ford product development chief Derrick Kuzak said in a statement that the battery electric Transit Connect "represents the next logical step in our pursuit of even greater fuel economy and sustainability."
Environmental advocates see pure electric and "plug-in" - or rechargeable - hybrids as the most promising way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption. Sales of hybrid vehicles have fallen off sharply in North America since gas prices dropped from historical average highs above $4 per gallon in mid 2008 and the economy faltered.
However, Ford expects US drivers to pay more for energy over the long term, justifying the capital investments at a time when Ford and US-based rivals General Motors Corp and Chrysler are struggling to complete turnarounds. Ford also believes the US government will need to play a role in accelerating the switchover to electric vehicles.
Ford was the last of the Detroit Big Three automakers to put a name to its electric powered vehicle plans. GM is working on the Chevy Volt, a four-door vehicle while Chrysler LLC has begun developing the two- seater Dodge Circuit. Both vehicles are to be introduced in 2010. Japan's Toyota Motor Corp remains far ahead of other automakers with its Prius hybrid as among the top sellers in the US market of any type of vehicle. (See: General Motors to electrify car market in 2010 with the Chevrolet Volt and Chrysler launches electric vehicles )
The No. 2 US-based automaker, Ford, is working with auto parts supplier Magna International to bring the small lithium ion battery-powered car to North America in 2011. Ford's plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2012 are expected to use a complete battery system supplied by a partnership between Johnson Controls Inc and France's Saft. (See: Magna and Ford Motor Company partner to introduce zero-emission battery electric vehicle)
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