Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) and Azure Dynamics have begun shipping the first Ford Transit Connect Electrics to early customers in North America and to the United Kingdom for a demonstration project.
The all-electric commercial vans, built on the Ford Transit Connect vehicle body, equipped with Azure Dynamics' patented Force Drive battery electric powertrain, and assembled by AM General at its facility in Livonia, Mich., are reaching the market 13 months after the collaboration to develop the zero-emission vehicle was first announced.
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 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.
Ford first announced the collaboration in October 2009, with an agreement for Azure Dynamics to upfit the Transit Connect van with Azure's Force Drive battery electric drivetrain technology including Johnson Controls-Saft's advanced lithium-ion battery, and a commitment to deliver the initial vehicles by the end of 2010 to the North American market. Initial production began in the fourth quarter of 2010 with full production of the Transit Connect Electric 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 director, 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, CEO, Azure Dynamics. "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. Meanwhile, capital costs are kept in check by contracting AM General for labor and assembly services – an area where the company excels. Transit Connect Electric is a revolutionary technology and achieving our aggressive time line is a testament to the professionalism and spirit of cooperation among all the project partners."
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation provided incentive funding for Azure Dynamics to encourage selection of a Michigan-based partner for final assembly. Azure chose AM General LLC, to produce the Transit Connect Electric in its facility in Livonia, Mich.
AM General, a long-established contract vehicle assembler and services provider, is responsible for final upfit of the Transit Connect Electric.
Transit Connect Electric is the first product in Ford's 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.