Ford surprised everyone by winning the 2010 North American Truck of the Year award, not with its big F-Series pickup, but with the C-platformed Transit Connect. Now Ford shocks us again with an all-electric version of the little hauler.
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Designed to be a small-fleet alternative to Ford's massive Econoline van, the Transit Connect Electric also offers the advantage of up to 80 miles of driving with no tailpipe emissions.
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Small footprint, big payload
Based on the C-platform (which also underpins the Ford Focus), the Transit doesn't take up a huge amount of space in the parking lot. But peek inside and you'll find a large, flexible rear cargo area that's perfect for hauling people and bulky items.
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The Transit BEV's electric motor output isn't mind blowing, but it's enough to shuffle the little van around at city speeds and onward to a top speed of 75 mph.
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Beneath the fuel cap, in place of the gasoline filler neck, is the five-pin port for connecting the electric Transit to power. 120V or 240V AC power can be used to juice the electric van. At 240V, the Transit's battery will charge in 6-8 hours. Sipping at 120V will take considerably longer.
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Though the Transit's exterior screamed "I'm electric!" with it's loud blue graphics, the interior was decidedly fleet vehicle fodder. The hard plastics and cloth seats seemed to be straight out of a late '90s economy car. It appears that aesthetics aren't high on the fleet buyer's list of must haves, which is fine by us.
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Range and battery gauges
The Transit BEV's gauge cluster doesn't look very special at first glance. Look closer, however, and you'll notice that the small fuel indicator has been replaced with a battery charge indicator and the large range gauge on the left has replaced the tachometer. The range gauge displays the estimated remaining range in miles.
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Ford tossed us the keys to the Transit BEV and we took it for a spin around downtown San Francisco. Acceleration was nothing to write home about, but there was enough power to make it up the city's many hills. There are three levels of regenerative braking (selectable on the shifter) to further extend the BEV's range.
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Late 2010 launch
Ford thinks that the Transit Connect Electric is ready for prime time (and we're inclined to believe it). The battery electric vehicle is set to launch in late 2010 as a fleet-only vehicle until electric vehicle-charging infrastructure is ready for a consumer vehicle.