First Drive: 2012 Ford Transit Connect Electric

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By Mike Hanley, Photography by Ian Merritt

Much of the attention surrounding electric vehicles has been focused on cars like the all-electric Nissan Leaf and range-extended Chevrolet Volt. Ford, meanwhile, has developed a model for those who need more hauling capability by equipping its Transit Connect van with an all-electric drivetrain through a partnership with Azure Dynamics. The Ford Transit Connect Electric is available to both fleet buyers and regular consumers. 

The Transit Connect Electric is just as refined as the gas-only model and offers improved acceleration, but it comes with a steep starting price of $57,400, about $35,000 more than the base price of the regular van. 

One of the most obvious impressions of the Transit Connect when I last drove it was that its 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine felt a little weak, especially on the highway, and that was without much in the way of cargo on board. The Transit Connect Electric, by comparison, offers more robust acceleration at midrange speeds and doesn't feel as burdened by the van's weight. Throttle tip-in from a standing start is seamless, and the Transit Connect Electric builds speed easily and quietly. The van's top speed is 75 mph. 

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Brake-pedal feel in alternative-fuel vehicles often isn't that great, but it's remarkably natural and linear in the Transit Connect Electric. Frankly, it's better than what many conventional gas-engine models offer. 

The Transit Connect Electric rides well, too. Like the gas-powered version, it uses a unibody platform that delivers a much more carlike driving experience than traditional domestic full-size vans like the Chevrolet Express. The Transit Connect Electric we drove in Chicago at a Ford event had some cargo in back, and the suspension yielded a comfortable yet composed ride on South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago's highway along the lakefront. The regular Transit Connect is rated to carry 1,600 pounds, which seems ambitious considering the four-cylinder's power, but the electric version is only rated to carry 1,045 pounds. 

The interior looks much like the regular Transit Connect's, but it does have a unique instrument panel that includes a range meter and a battery charge indicator. I was expecting some correlation between the two, but with the range gauge showing 50 miles (out of a maximum of 80 miles, according to Ford), the battery meter still showed a full charge. Like the regular Transit Connect, you start the van by turning the key in the ignition and put it in gear by moving the console selector from Park to Drive. 

The 28 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is under the cargo floor, so there's no loss of cargo space; there's still 129.6 cubic feet of cargo room behind the front seats. The Transit Connect Electric accepts the industry-standard charging plug and supports 120- and 240-volt service. With a 240-volt setup, it can take from six to eight hours to replenish the battery pack with the Transit Connect Electric's 3.3-kilowatt onboard charger. 

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Despite the stronger performance and familiar driving experience, the Transit Connect Electric's price tag remains a significant hurdle when trying to make a financial case for the electric van. If you ran a fleet where it could travel 50 miles a day, five days a week every week of the year, you'd rack up 13,000 miles a year. Traveling the same distance in a gas-powered Transit Connect cargo van, which gets combined gas mileage of 23 mpg, would cost $1,820 based on a $3.22 national average for a gallon of regular. 

When you count the $7,500 federal tax credit the Transit Connect Electric qualifies for, it still costs $27,865 more than a base Transit Connect. Even if the electricity to charge the Transit Connect Electric were free, it'd take around 15 years to recoup the additional upfront expense. California buyers may be eligible for a voucher worth up to $15,000, which would reduce the payback time to about six years taking into account the state's higher $3.53 average for a gallon of regular. That's a big drop, to be sure, but it may still be too long for consumers who have an eye on the bottom line. 

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Why do the Automakers keep pushing these electric vehicles with limited range and toxic batteries. I would much prefer CNG or compressed hydrogen gas powered trucks or a diesel that has not been neutered by the EPA, we need to get off oil but we should not sacrifise any capability to do it. Thats why i think that CNG would be the way to go quick fill ups with +no toxic waste from battery packs =win. Emmision crontrols are one thing but the CAFE stadards are retarded the government should let the consumer decide what vehicle they should buy and if everybody who buys dodge wants a 5.7L hemi then Dodge should be able to sell all their cars with a Hemi. the Market drove Ford to create the ecoboost which is selling well, government drove the creation of the volt with dismal sales. All things being equal people will go with the best value, initail price, mpg etc. let the people decide if we all want to buy only 6.2l raptors from Ford then they should be allowed to make all their vehicles Raptors. enough of goverment intervention and subsidization of terrible ideasn like EVs that nobody would be able to justify purchasing.

I agree that today's EVs don't make a whole lot of economic sense, but with extended production and R&D, future EVs will hopefully offer decent range and lower cost that would be competitive with I.C.E vehicles. All it takes is some economies of scale to kick in for that to happen.

An EV makes ZERO sense for me as I live in a rural area and frequently take long trips. The infrastructure just isn't there yet. Not to mention I live in Northern MN and need all that delightful waste heat produced by an internal combustion engine to keep my toes warm when it's 20 below outside. I'd imagine your mileage would go to utter sh!t in one of these things if you had to run the heater full bore all the time...

However, I think that electric power makes a lot of sense in the limited context of a delivery van. Especially in temperate climates. They usually take short trips and this would accentuate their advantage over gas and diesel-powered vehicles.

57K? You could pay someone else to do all your deliveries for that kind of change. Sorry, but it's DOA

No tail pipe needed - looking good. They still need to cut costs by 1/3 to 1/2 while minimally doubling the range. Too bad there's no Moore's law equivalent to battery technology.

@Toycrusher84: I agree. It's a dog and pony show novelty until battery technology advances. I'd guess they're using federal research grants to fund much of these type of cutting edge efforts.

Azure Dynamics Corp is a Toronto exchange penny stock with symbol AZD. Currently valued at 0.07 $(can)/share. They are heavily in debt and loosing money every day. It doesn't look good for them or this project.

Electric cars have been around a hundred years so why the $57k price tag?

That's an impressive payload for such a small van, imo.
That's like the weight of 10 ten year olds.
In some countries they'd use this as a school bus.

I live in Sweden and 80% of the connect her is Diesel delivery vans and they get good mpg. the pris for a connect base in sweden is 28000 usd

I have tried to post 3 times and it still doesn't show?! What gives? Is it the link I was trying to put in?

Interesting that Ford Australia does not offer the Transit Connect. As regards the Hybrid Transit Connect, Top speed of 75mph payload of 1000lbs??? plus the price DOA. The small delivery vans they sell here from Holden (Opel), Citroen, Peugeot etc are basically inner city small capacity delivery vehicles.

GM and Ford need to trash can these electric cars, trucks and all the ideas of them. Its just going to make it cost 10 times more to light you're by time its all done. more need for coal and the dollar signs are going to go up and up.

One thing a person needs to factor in when doing a break even cost analysis is "idling time". Short run delivery vans spend a considerable amount of time idling. Factor that in and the payback may be less.
The killer is the price. Ultimately, what pisses me of the most, is the government rebates. Those are my tax dollars being thrown at the makers of these products to make them,and those are my tax dollars being thrown at the buyers to make them more palatable to buy.
These things only work well in large warm (read southern) urban locations. Batteries do not like cold. I've been told that a Prius takes up to 10 miles for the electrical system to function at peek efficiency in cold weather.
On the flip side, how much electricity is this thing going to consume to run the A/C for a delivery driver in Phoenix Arizona in the middle of summer?


I am not sure what Canadian rebates there are, can you give some numbers?

The US rebates/subsidizes/etc all kinds of things so the $7500 is nothing new. For this particular vehicle it probably won't boost the sales because of the ridiculous price, the incentive is only small beans compared to it.

Jus think about all the things that are subsidized though and what that would do for our economy, the trade differentials, etc if all of these went away. It would have MEGA consequences around the world. Be careful what you wish for (disclaimer I am not really for subsidizing most industries but there are times where the cost of "crossing the chasm" is worth it in the long run {think the interstate highway system, Hoover Dam, etc})

The batteries honestly don't like extreme cold or extreme heat but the big difference in the mileage is coming from artificially heating or cooling the cabin, not really from less capacity due to temperature.

From personal knowledge a Prius does take about 3 to 5 minutes to warm up when it is cold (ie under 20 F) but this is no different from a regular ICE that takes 5-10 minutes to warm up and get the emissions under control and most complete fuel burn. A hybrid (or full electric) typically takes less time due to less mass and engine volume to "warm up." once warmed up my mpg difference between say early fall and mid winter is only about 3-4%

Isn't this made in Turkey?

Not a good nation to deal with...

GM still way a head of the competition with their Volt technology. Electric with a gas motor backup which nobody has been able to produce yet. GM still number 1!

@mhowarth - Rebates and subsidies vary from province to province. The federal government also chips in money.
This is what there is currently in place in British Columbia.
The program ends March 31st, 2013
•Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) – $5,000
•Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs) – $5,000
•Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles / Extended Range Electric Vehicles:
◦Battery capacity of 4.0 - 9.9 kWh – $2,500
◦Battery capacity of 10.0 - 14.9 kWh – $3,500
◦Battery capacity of 15.0 kWh and greater – $5,000
•Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles (not heavy duty) – $2,500
The interesting point is that the BCAA did a study and found only 1 of 16 hybrids delivered significantly better savings than its gas counterpart.
Here is an interesting exerpt "During the five-year study, gas prices fluctuated from 95 cents a litre to a high of $1.40, so researchers chose an average price to make their comparisons.
Acres said a Honda Civic hybrid cost only $290 more to operate over five years compared to its gas equivalent, whereas the Toyota Prius cost $1,718 more to operate than its gas equivalent, the Toyota Matrix. Over a five-year period, the cost to own and operate a Honda Insight was $38,326, a Toyota Prius cost $40,324 and the Honda Civic Hybrid cost $42,664."

I do agree that governments subsidize all sorts of things. Highways and public transit are a prime example. Sometimes I wonder if government subsidies indirectly increase the cost of products. I've seen that happen in private versus public construction projects.

Jason H, you may be interested to know that these little EV workhorses are already on the job in Minnesota. Minneapolis and Saint Paul both have one, as does both Ramsey County, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Airport Commission and the state fleet.

I read they've built 95 of these to date. Azure lost federal grant monies in the last quarter. They've doubled down and need production revenues to take off without a hitch. In the next 5 years several hundred million of borrowed dollars comes due. If it looks promising a large company, like Ford, could come in and buy them out at pennies on the dollar.

Natural gas vehicles make much more sense in the USA and Canada in order to ween ourselves off of foreign, unstable oil sources.

More junk from the #2 automaker......

Your figures for the payback time on EV's assume gasoline prices won't rise. Do you think that's very likely?

it is good site... amazing these are a ll good cars having good ac conditioners these are all good models i like them so much it is so cool thanks for posting this so cool....

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