This van changes everything – The North State Journal

SONOMA, Calif. – The Ford Transit is one of those vehicles you see all the time but don’t really notice.

Whether it’s a cable technician or locksmith, plumber, electrician, baker, flower delivery or Amazon, Transit is all over. They are almost all used for commercial purposes, making them prime candidates for electrification.

For years, electric cars have been purchased primarily by two types of people: environmentalists and early adopters of the technology. A friend of mine once called his first-production Tesla Model S a “middle-aged man magnet.”

But now, finally, there are also electric vehicles for ordinary people. Ford is working on a whole range of them, starting with the Mustang Mach-E crossover (which I gave my 2021 Sports Car of the Year award to) and, soon, the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck. .

But there’s something conspicuously missing from most discussions of lightweight electric vehicles: business use. Tesla doesn’t appear to be interested in the utility or fleet vehicle markets, and every other electric vehicle launched or announced in the United States in recent years has been entirely consumer-focused.

Ford is going in a different direction, both with the F-150 Lightning and with my test car this week, the Ford E-Transit minivan.

The E-Transit is a slightly modified version of the existing Transit van. Gone is the internal combustion engine, with a rear-mounted electric motor and a 68kWh (usable) battery under the chassis. I suspect the entire setup is borrowed from the Mustang Mach-E, although Ford neither confirms nor denies this.

The battery mounting under the chassis is particularly important as the company’s designers worked very hard to ensure that all mounting points on the chassis were identical between the internal combustion and electric versions of the Transit. This is a huge deal, as nearly every Transit sold is modified, and it can take years for aftermarket refurbishers to adjust their wares to fit a new platform.

Ford did the same with the F-150 Lightning. The back box is identical to the standard F-150, down to the last bolt – at least at the top. Underneath it is completely different to accommodate the skateboard battery, electric motors and the new independent rear suspension. Ford engineers worked hard to make sure the Lightning and E-Transit would work perfectly with customer equipment, and Ford says it will.

Commercial vehicles are particularly attractive for electrification for several reasons. First, thanks to the advent of cheap cellular connectivity, modern fleet vehicles are almost always cloud-connected. This means it’s easy to get data on how many miles a car drives each day, as well as how long and where it’s parked.

It turns out that knowing how far a vehicle has traveled and how long it has been parked is crucial in determining the ROI of EV upgrades. Although the E-Transit only has a range of 106 to 126 miles depending on configuration, Ford says this covers everyday use scenarios for a significant portion of Transit’s fleet through extensive market research. .

If you’re a plumber in a suburban area, for example, you might drive 10 miles to one client, then 5 miles to another, and so on. If you have plenty of data showing that your existing Transit vans never exceed 75 miles per day, you know E-Transit will work for you.

The 68 kWh battery was chosen because it strikes a reasonable balance between cost and range, and the E-Transit costs about $10,000 more than a comparable internal combustion Transit. That, plus a $7,500 tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle, makes E-Transit competitive. On top of that, businesses can expect lower ongoing costs because electricity is cheaper than fuel, and because electric cars have fewer moving parts and require less maintenance, they can also expect less downtime.

Ford has been able to ease the pain points of adopting commercial electric vehicles. While everyone is familiar with refueling at a gas station, recharging is a different beast.

The new Ford Pro business division has consultants who will work with fleet customers to analyze their current usage patterns and make recommendations on where and how to charge vehicles. Suppose their analysis shows that a bakery would need three wall chargers in the parking lot to charge their E-Transit vans overnight. In this case, Ford offers a range of cloud-connected chargers and will even roll the cost of the chargers and their installation into a larger finance package with the vans.

These vans can also be charged in public through the BlueOval charging network. It’s a loose amalgamation of charging networks like ChargePoint and Electrify America, and Ford handles all billing and activation behind the scenes. Company employees won’t have to worry about having the right card or app on their phone, and they can plug in and charge up.

Ah, but what about take-out vehicles? Many commercial vans, especially in industries like telecommunications, are driven home by technicians at night, and they won’t like having to pay for electricity. Ford Pro also has a solution there.

The most important electric vehicle of all time.

The vans, connected to Ford’s E-Telematics suite via an on-board cellular connection, know when they are charging at the employee’s home, measure the amount of electricity consumed, and then automatically generate bills so the employee can be refunded.

Commercial fleets typically see 10-15% revenue each year, which means it’s going to be a slow rollout at best. And the 125-mile range means this van won’t work for many commercial customers. But it’s a first-gen product and advancements, including longer range and things like vehicle-to-grid PTO (think about using your vehicle to power your home during an outage).

But for all EV enthusiasts, there are plenty of other skeptics who would never consider an EV. But if the company provides one, they will have to drive it, which makes it a great opportunity.

Vehicles like the Ford E-Transit and the Ford F-150 Lightning Pro, the fleet version of the electric pickup that starts at around $40,000, will put EVs in the hands of many other users who will then experience the electric appeal: bottom-end torque, surprisingly excellent drivability, and a battery that’s always full every morning, among other things.

Ford Pro has done all it can to make business adoption of electric vehicles more accessible, and the company is looking at ways to bundle vehicles, charging infrastructure and even things like real estate to charging stations into one big funding package to make it easier for businesses. to justify the initial outlay of switching to electricity.

I understand the environmental arguments for switching to electric vehicles, but I also understand the skeptics who don’t want to pay extra for the privilege. But if you can show a business case for change — and you can — it makes the EV argument that much more compelling.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E was great, and the Ford F-150 Lightning will be great when production begins this spring. But the Ford E-Transit is going to be a Trojan horse for electric vehicles, sneaking into warehouses, bakeries, trades and everywhere else – and that means it could be the most important electric vehicle of all time. .

The Ford E-Transit minivan is currently in production and deliveries will begin later this month.

About Robert Pierson

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