Ford Expands EV Lineup with E-Transit Cargo Van
The all-electric commercial van addresses upfitting and charging concerns while adding a host of EV data solutions for fleet managers.
Ford revealed on November 12 its next fully electric vehicle (EV), the 2022 E-Transit cargo van, with the automaker’s new president and CEO Jim Farley stating, “The transition of fleet vehicles to zero emissions, especially for the fast-growing last-mile delivery segment, is critical to achieve our carbon neutrality goal by 2050. We’re standing with California for higher standards, lower emissions and cleaner air. And we’re proud to support and live up to the Paris Agreement.”
Farley and Ford expect the global demand for full-size vans to grow another one-third by the end of this decade. That includes a potential market for more than 1.1 million full-size, fully electric and connected commercial vehicles worldwide, Farley said during the virtual product launch.
E-Transit will be assembled at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri for North American customers and available in late 2021. Its reveal follows Ford’s announcement of the Mustang Mach-E EV scheduled to begin deliveries later this year, as well as an F-150 EV that’s expected in mid-2022. All are part of Ford’s investment in electrification of more than $11.5 billion through 2022.
Upfitting and uptime
Facilitating upfitting was a major consideration in the E-Transit’s development program. “We know a majority of our vans are upfitted, so it’s a really critical area of concern and need from our customers,” said Usha Raghavachari, Lab Director of D-Ford in London. Fleet customers said as much during the launch event, one stating, “As we’ve seen alternative vehicles be released throughout the years, that has really been the number one [priority], keeping the same upfit and not losing that cargo space.”
Ford engineers listened. E-Transit offers the same interior cargo dimensions and standard mounting points as the internal-combustion-powered Transit, assuring integration with hundreds of upfitters and vehicle modifiers that already provide compatible racks, bins and other accessories. The van’s lithium-ion battery pack is packaged beneath the load floor, providing up to 487.3 cubic feet of cargo space inside the high-roof, extended-wheelbase variant.
In the U.S., E-Transit is available with a choice of three roof heights and three body lengths, as well as in cargo, cutaway and chassis cab versions. The electric motor delivers 266 hp (198 kW) and 317 lb-ft (430 Nm) across all configurations. Engineers also redesigned E-Transit’s rear-wheel drive and rear suspension to optimize cargo space, developing a heavy-duty semi-trailing arm suspension system that aids steering precision and handling.
“It has the first heavy-duty independent rear suspension of any electric van in the U.S., specially designed with the rear-wheel drive for a smoother ride and more traction when the vehicle has increased payload,” said Ted Cannis, Ford North America general manager of commercial vehicles. For E-Transit cargo vans in the U.S., Ford is targeting a maximum payload of 3,800 lb (1,725 kg), and up to 4,290 lb (1,945 kg) for the chassis and cutaway versions.
“We understand that [commercial fleets] are obsessed about two things: cost of ownership and uptime,” said Farley. “The E-Transit improves both.” Ford estimates the scheduled maintenance costs for the all-electric Transit will be 40% less than for a gasoline-powered 2020 Transit over eight years/100,000 miles.
E-Transit has “significantly fewer parts” than internal-combustion-powered vans, nearly 90% fewer parts in its propulsion system alone, “reducing the potential for expensive repairs,” Farley said. Ford’s sales and service network includes 645 commercial-vehicle centers across the U.S., about 90% of which are EV-certified.
AC and DC fast charging
Battery capacity and appropriate range for the E-Transit was determined by examining 30 million miles (48 million km) of customer telematics data, according to Yaro Hetman, global marketing director for electric trucks and commercial vehicles. The team discovered that in the U.S., the average daily range for a commercial van is 74 miles (119 km).
With a usable battery capacity of 67 kW-h, E-Transit will deliver an estimated range of 126 miles (203 km) in the low-roof cargo van variant. “This makes E-Transit ideal for commercial customers who know their drive routes and often work in urban environments,” said Cannis, who noted that “affordability is key.” The E-Transit has an MSRP starting at less than $45,000 for U.S. fleet customers.
Ford is offering an “ecosystem” of charging solutions to meet fleet and driver needs. “Vehicles often need to travel home with employees as well, so easy home charging solutions with energy tracking for fleets to reimburse their drivers is essential,” said Cannis.
E-Transit features both AC and DC fast charging, coming standard with a Ford Mobile Charger that can plug into a 120-V outlet for slow, steady charging or a 240-V AC outlet offering about 10 miles (16 km) per charging hour for E-Transit low-roof models. Even faster home-charging is available with the Ford Connected Charge Station, which provides up to 15 miles (24 km) per charging hour and can fully charge E-Transit in eight hours.
On a 115-kW-plus DC fast charger, low-roof models can achieve about 30 miles (48 km) of range in 10 minutes. “Fleets have told us overwhelmingly that they will want easy access to public charging, especially on an as-needed basis to maximize uptime,” said Hetman. “So, we’re providing simplified access to North America’s largest public charging network – over 13,500 chargers.” Ford is working with Greenlots to grant its EV customers access to multiple top charging-infrastructure companies, including DC fast charging in partnership with Electrify America.
A Pro Power Onboard option for North American customers provides up to 2.4 kW of exportable power, transforming the van into a mobile generator that powers tools and equipment on job sites. “In a lot of the work we’ve done with customers, we understand that many of them install inverters into their current vans,” said Hetman. “This feature unlocks convenient productivity without having to rely on external inverter upfits.”
“This is the smartest Transit we’ve ever done by far,” said Patricia Piedrahita, global EV digital consumer experience manager. The latest-generation SYNC 4 communications and entertainment system brings a standard 12-inch (30-cm) touchscreen to the E-Transit, along with improved voice recognition and built-in navigation that can indicate nearby charging locations and provide real-time information about those stations’ capabilities and availability.
An “intelligent range” feature factors in real-time conditions such as terrain, traffic and temperature along a given route, providing a more accurate estimate of the vehicle’s range, she said. E-Transit also comes equipped with a standard embedded modem with 4G LTE WiFi for up to 10 devices. “When activated, that modem unlocks substantial additional benefits, including over-the-air updates to the SYNC system, keeping maps up-to-date, real-time information and enhancements to the driver-assistance technologies,” said Piedrahita.
A new Ford Co-Pilot360 technology is available with intelligent adaptive cruise control that can identify speed limits and automatically change the vehicle speed accordingly. Standard Co-Pilot360 features include a lane-keeping system and pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking; optional is a blind-spot information system with blind-spot assist, a 360-degree camera and reverse brake assist, a first for Transit vans.
Ford also has created EV data solutions that complement the electric van. “With E-Transit, our portfolio of connected services expands significantly,” said Julius Marchwicki, chief operating officer, Ford Commercial Solutions. “Battery-electric vehicle data will provide key insights and real-time access for fleet managers to monitor and control individual vehicles.” For example, alerts can be sent if a vehicle is not plugged in when scheduled, and fleets can remotely manage transactions for public charging.
Real-time driver coaching through SYNC 4 voice assistant is another new feature. If a driver exceeds a speed limit, rapidly accelerates, brakes harshly, leaves the engine running while parked or fails to fasten a seatbelt, an in-vehicle audio message will notify them to take corrective action.
“We’ve heard directly from our customers how important driver coaching systems are to them,” said Marchwicki. “By integrating this service directly into our vehicles, businesses can better promote safe driving behavior, optimize energy usage on their vehicles and reduce wear and tear without installing extra hardware.”