Ford is replacing the venerable E-Series with the Transit, the bigger brother of the Transit Connect that Ford began bringing in from Turkey a few years ago. It will be offered as a full-size van as well as a chassis cab and a cutaway.

NTEA Coverage: Vans arriving from Europe, alternative fuels abounding at Work Truck Show

April 1, 2013
Maybe it should be renamed The International Work Truck Show

MAYBE it should be renamed The International Work Truck Show.

Ford and Ram — two of America's leading work truck manufacturers — introduced commercial vans produced by European affiliates, as did Nissan during The Work Truck Show in Indianapolis.

Add to that a new lineup of Mitsubishi Fuso trucks, along with an array of alternatively fueled vehicles, and this year's exhibition gave visitors a good look at the changing face of commercial trucks.

Perhaps no greater example of the European influence is evident than at Ford, where America's market share leader is replacing its iconic Econoline van with a Turkish-built van and cutaway chassis.

Unlike the Transit Connect that has been available in the United States for several years, the new Ford Transit is a full-size van with a choice regular wheelbase (129.9 inches) or long-wheelbase version (147.6”). A choice of three roof heights will be offered — 83.2 inches, 100.8 inches, and a high-roof option that provides a vertical height of 110.2 inches.

Depending on the roof height, the Transit will offer a variety of door configurations, including sliding and swing doors — including doors that can swing open 270 degrees.

The Transit also will be available as chassis cab and cutaway chassis models to accommodate van bodies, platforms, and walk-though vans. The chassis will be built as 250, 350, and 350HD models.

Powering the Transit will be either the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 gasoline engine that is used in the F-150 pickup, the 3.2-liter Power Stroke diesel, or a 3.7-liter V-6 that can be configured to run on gasoline, compressed natural gas, or propane.

Frames are a little wider than the North American standard. However, they are straight and flat. Box-section rails are stiffer than the normal channels.

The vans go into production next year at the Ford plant in Kansas City. Measuring sessions are being planned for this fall in order to provide truck body manufacturers and distributors an opportunity to plan their upfits.

Ram introduces ProMaster van

Ram Truck is taking advantage of its affiliation with Italy's Fiat S.p.A. to bring a new line of vans to the North American market.

The 2014 Ram ProMaster is based on the popular front-wheel-drive Fiat Ducato, which is the most popular full-size van in Europe, yet it is a full-size van engineered for the North American market. The ProMaster is Ram's first shared truck collaboration with Fiat Professional.

Built as a full-size van, ProMaster also will be offered as a factory-built chassis cab and cutaway.

The van is powered by Fiat's 3.0-liter I-4 EcoDiesel as well as a 280-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 coupled with a 62TE six-speed automatic transmission that has been tailored for use in the ProMaster or an automated six-speed manual controlled by software that responds to road conditions.

The Fiat Ducato is now in its third generation with more than 4.5 million sold worldwide.

The 2014 ProMaster is available in two roof heights, three wheelbases, and four body lengths. Its unibody frame architecture saves weight, enabling it to offer improved payload ratings — up to 5,145 pounds and a maximum towing capacity up to 5,100 pounds.

The gross combined weight rating (GCWR) for the 3.6-liter V-6 is 11,500 pounds and 12,500 pounds for the 3.0-liter I-4 EcoDiesel. Unibody construction has additional advantages, including stability and strength from front to rear, a reinforced plenum area for optimized engine packaging, and “truer” tuning of chassis systems and related hardware when compared to more common body-on-frame applications.

The unibody system under the cab is an enabler for the ProMaster's segment exclusive front-wheel-drive system. Without rear driveshafts or rear differentials, the drive system creates a number of advantages, including improved fuel economy, cargo capacity, lower step-in height and load floor, and greater ceiling height.

The ProMaster is available in two roof heights, 90 or 101 inches.

A sliding door on the passenger side is standard, with an optional sliding door on the driver's side. The sliding door openings are based on roof height - 49 inch × 60 inch for the low roof model and 49 inch × 70 inch for high roof models. In the rear, an available two-position rear clamshell door swings open up to 260-degrees, folding almost flat to the side of the van. All three door openings enable fork lift pallet loading and unloading, and spaciousness that leads the competitive set.

The 2014 Ram ProMaster offers 13 different configurations: ProMaster 1500 Cargo Van 118-inch wheelbase low roof; ProMaster 1500 Cargo Van 136-inch wheelbase low roof; ProMaster 1500 Cargo Van 136-inch wheelbase high roof; ProMaster 2500 Cargo Van 136-inch wheelbase high roof; ProMaster 2500 Cargo Van 159-inch wheelbase high roof; ProMaster 3500 Cargo Van 159-inch wheelbase high roof; ProMaster 3500 Cargo Van 159-inch wheelbase high roof extended body; ProMaster 3500 Chassis Cab 136-inch wheelbase; ProMaster 3500 Chassis Cab 159-inch wheelbase; ProMaster 3500 Chassis Cab 159-inch wheelbase extended body; ProMaster 3500 Chassis Cab Cutaway 136-inch wheelbase; ProMaster 3500 Chassis Cab Cutaway 159-inch wheelbase; and ProMaster 3500 Chassis Cab Cutaway 159-inch wheelbase extended frame.

Start of production for the 2014 Ram ProMaster is scheduled for third quarter of 2013. All configurations will be produced at the Saltillo Van Assembly Plant in Saltillo, Mexico.

Mitsubishi introduces new Canters

Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America, Inc. (MFTA) introduced its new 2014 model year FUSO Canter FE and FG Series commercial medium-duty trucks at the NTEA Work Truck Show.

A longer, 169.3” wheelbase for the Class 3 Canter FE125 and a side-mounted fuel tank are among the new options available for 2014 FUSO Canter work trucks.

The longer wheelbase for the Canter FE125 model will allow the deployment of bodies up to 20' long in a truck that has a GVWR of 12,500 lb. and a body/payload capacity of 7,285 lb — perfect for high-bulking applications like furniture delivery.

The optional side-mounted fuel tank can replace the standard rear, in-frame tank on any 2014 FE model with a wheelbase of 139.3 or longer, for delivery trucks that require liftgates or rollback or stinger type auto recovery applications.

According to Todd Bloom, president and CEO of MFTA, “These new 2014-model Canters offer low cost-of-ownership, better fuel mileage than Isuzu, extended service intervals of 18,000 miles and the best standard powertrain warranty in the medium-duty business. This year, thanks to our latest additions, the new Canters also offer added versatility and driver comfort.

“And, while it may not seem like a major change,” notes Mr. Bloom, “the addition of the Clarion AM/FM/CD radio, with its Bluetooth, MP3 and USB compatibility, recognizes a fact of life in our business: most medium-duty work trucks are not driven by professional drivers. So the more we can do to design our trucks to mimic the cars that our customers' employees are used to, the better we equip those customers to hire the drivers best suited to their businesses.

“In addition to these option additions, we expect our 2014 model Canters to meet EPA GHG standards beginning with units produced in May 2013 — a full four years ahead of the regulatory compliance mandate.”

Freightliner shows its propane power

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) detailed its plans for the 2013 market debut of its S2G chassis, a factory-installed liquid propane gas (LPG) engine available to the medium-duty truck market.

FCCC is currently taking customer orders, rolling out a select series of S2G chassis this spring and delivering full production models by early fall.

The S2G will initially be available exclusively to the propane-delivery market.

“The S2G is a true OEM propane-powered truck that will be used to deliver and promote propane,” said FCCC president Bob Harbin. “This is a very powerful and cost-effective product that utilizes our position as an innovative force for alternative fuel chassis. The S2G is a dedicated, propane-powered truck, and we are seeing a lot of strong early demand in the marketplace for this chassis.”

Built on FCCC's S2 chassis, the S2G 8-liter, 350 hp engine supplied by Powertrain Integration offers lower operational costs and reduced emissions, without sacrificing payload capability or performance.

FCCC partnered with Powertrain Integration and CleanFUEL USA on the development of the S2G. It's also worked with the close support of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), established in 1996 by the United States Congress to promote the safe and efficient use of odorized propane gas.

With the wholesale prices for propane available to distributors consistently below $2 a gallon, FCCC and its partners see a healthy and growing market for the S2G as a highly cost-effective product.

A retrofit hybrid

Are you interested in converting existing chassis into hybrids? A new product from Ecco Automotive, Anderson IN and Scottsdale AZ, makes it possible.

The bolt-on EchoDrive system can be installed in about six hours, the company says. Production is planned for next year following pilot programs involving Ford E-Series vans. Ecco plans to expand the line to include Ford F-Series and GM pickups.

The company says the system does not affect the performance of the existing engine. But the additional power provided by the EccoDrive 30-kW electric motor can generate an increase in fuel economy by up to 50%.

The system consists of an electric motor, a 630-amp inverter, low-voltage batteries, and provision for plug-in power. When the installation is complete, the electric motor delivers energy to assist the OEM engine. Regenerative braking captures energy that normally is lost, sending electricity into the batteries where it is stored until needed.

A look at solar-powered trucks

e-Now has identified a way to get truck bodies and trailers to generate electricity — by equipping them with solar panels.

According to the Warwick, Rhode Island, company, e-Now solar panels can generate between 15 and 16 watts per square foot. At that rate, a 53-ft trailer can produce 6,000 watts that can be used for a variety of applications, including refrigeration units if the control software is revised to recognize the incoming power.

Other possibilities include anti-idling applications, liftgate operation, safety lighting, and trailer de-icing systems. The panels help charge batteries which also can be recharged by shore power or the truck's alternator.

e-Now is marketing the system to trailer manufacturers, truck body manufacturers, and dealer/distributors.

Freightliner reaches out to truck equipment industry

Freightliner discussed its vocational strategy during the Work Truck Show.

Following the closure of its Sterling operation a few years ago, the company began a five-year plan designed to strengthen its presence in the vocational truck market — including truck body manufacturers and upfitters.

“We knew we needed to work with the industry in order to more effectively sell product,” Freightliner's David Hanes said. “We are now in the third year of a five-year plan to create ways to support truck equipment manufacturers.”

Freightliner Frameworks is a product of that plan. Introduced at The Work Truck Show, it is a formalization of some of the initiatives Freightliner has been implementing in recent years. It features training on the upfitting process, three-dimensional layouts using Freightliner CAD.

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