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Ford’s electrified Transit vans break cover

Transition: The Ford Transit Custom (below) will gain a plug-in hybrid drivetrain capable of covering 50km on electricity, while the full-size Transit (left) gets a 48V mild hybrid setup.

Running costs, eco image could get Transit Custom PHEV over the line for Ford Aus

25 Sep 2018

FORD Australia has not ruled the local launch of two electrified vans revealed at the IAA Commercial Vehicle show in Hannover – a plug-in hybrid version of the mid-size Transit Connect and a full-size Transit with a 48V mild hybrid setup.
Both will reach international markets around the middle of next year and if given the green light by Ford Australia, could be the Blue Oval’s first foray into electrification Down Under.
Although Ford Australia product communications manager Damion Smy said there was nothing he could confirm, he told GoAuto he “wouldn’t rule anything out necessarily”.
Mr Smy pointed out the Transit’s five-year warranty, 30,000km service intervals and tyre price guarantee, that all help reduce vehicle down-time and total running costs, could be further enhanced through electrification.
“That (cost of ownership) is a really sharp focus for Transit, so if the hybrid was to come in with lower running costs that would be great,” he said
Mr Smy added that there were parallels with the Transit’s appeal to brand-conscious business buyers due to its range of 100 factory colour options and the eco-friendly image a hybrid van can deliver.
“A lot of people buy for their particular brand image, so you can buy (Transit) in the colour you want … A lot of it is about the image of the company as well, so that might be where the hybrid might work in that sense,” he said.
“We like high-spec vehicles in this market, which is why Transit is the highest-spec model … and sells at a higher price because customers are looking for a better-equipped vehicle.“
The Transit Connect PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) has a payload of more than 1000kg and its front wheels are driven by the electric motor, with the 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine used exclusively to generate electricity that is fed into a 14kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
Ford claims a 50km battery-only driving range for the mid-size van segment’s first plug-in hybrid, with a 500km total range with a full tank of petrol. A full charge takes from three hours using a 32-amp power supply, with a domestic 10A socket taking five hours.
Revealed alongside the Connect PHEV was the facelifted two-tonne Transit, just in time to muddy the waters for Ford Australia, which is preparing to announce a different set of updates to the local range, including an 8.0-inch Sync3 multimedia screen and an upgraded 2.0-litre engine with automatic transmission availability on front-drive variants.
Again, Mr Smy did not rule out the big Transit’s 48V mild hybrid drivetrain option for Australia but pointed out that it would be some time until the facelifted van arrived here due to its mid-2019 European launch date and the imminent rollout of running changes on the current model for this market.
In addition, the mild hybrid technology will only be available on Transits with a manual transmission, at least to begin with.
Ford claims another segment first with the Transit mHEV (mild hybrid electric vehicle) and says it is around 3.0 per cent more efficient than the standard diesel model based on the latest WLTP cycle, with an advantage of up to 8.0 per cent in heavy traffic.
A belt-driven starter-generator replaces a conventional alternator under the Transit mHEV’s bonnet, providing regenerative braking to an air-cooled lithium-ion battery pack and additional torque during acceleration and normal driving.
It also powers the van’s electrical ancillaries and is designed to increase efficiency rather than performance, although Ford says a by-product of the system’s instantaneous torque input does improve low-end response.
Another significant update to the full-size Transit will be the introduction of a 10-speed automatic transmission option on rear-drive variants, although this will not hit the market until early 2020.
The model will also gain a raft of new driver assist and connectivity technologies, power-operated sliding doors, additional lighting, new driving modes for low-traction surfaces and towing, and increased payload.
Australian sales of the Transit Custom are flying this year, with 47.4 per cent year-on-year growth to the end August courtesy of 1327 deliveries. The Transit is up 7.4 per cent on 622 units, while the Transit Bus is down 72.7 per cent with 12 units.

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