Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and Azure Dynamics have announced that shipment of the first commercial vans has begun to “early customers” in North America as well as to Great Britain for a demonstration project there. Transit Connect Electric
The all-electric vans are built on the Ford Transit Connect body and are equipped with Azure Dynamics' patented Force Drive battery-electric powertrain. The vehicles, assembled by AM General at its facility in Livonia, MI, are “reaching the market 13 months after the collaboration to develop the zero-emission vehicle was first announced,” the companies said
To date, all initial units have designated customers. Azure Dynamics' LEAD customer program includes seven companies that are taking delivery of their first units in 2010, with the remainder of their orders to be filled in 2011. Customers for the electric vans that have been previously announced include AT&T, Southern California Edison, Xcel Energy, Johnson Controls Inc., New York Power Authority, Canada Post and Toronto Atmospheric Fund EV300. Additional LEAD customers will be identified by the end of the year, Azure noted.
Ford pointed out it first announced the collaboration in October 2009. The agreement called for Azure Dynamics to upfit the Transit Connect with Azure's Force Drive battery-electric drivetrain technology, which includes the Johnson Controls-Saft's advanced lithium-ion battery—as well as “a commitment to deliver the initial vehicles by the end of 2010 to the North American market.”
Initial production of the Transit Connect Electric began in the fourth quarter of 2010. Full production is slated to ramp up in April 2011.
"Supplier collaboration is important on all Ford product programs, but it was especially key in this effort, which went from contract signing to vehicle production in 13 months," said Sherif Marakby, Ford’s director of Electrification Programs and Engineering. "A strong teamwork environment established by Azure and Ford was critical to delivering this vehicle."
"The Transit Connect Electric program is a great representation of our product development approach," said Scott Harrison, Azure Dynamics CEO. "We have been able to focus on integration of our Force Drive powertrain solution and benefit from Ford's expertise in building ground-up global vehicle platforms.”
The companies noted that the Michigan Economic Development Corp. provided incentive funding for Azure Dynamics “to encourage selection of a Michigan-based partner for final assembly. Azure chose AM General to produce the Transit Connect Electric in its facility in Livonia, MI. AM General, a veteran contract vehicle assembler, is responsible for final upfit of the Transit Connect Electric.
According to Ford, Transit Connect Electric is the first product in its “accelerated electrified vehicle plan, and will be followed by the Focus Electric passenger car in 2011, along with a plug-in hybrid electric and two next-generation lithium-ion battery-powered hybrid vehicles in 2012.”