Ford joins GM and Chrysler in announcing electric vehicle by 2011

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."