Cleveland, Ohio – As the market for electric vans and pickups gets more crowded with startups such as Rivian, Lordstown Motors, and Workhorse, Ford Motor Co. says it plans to protect its dominance in commercial vans by offering what the startups can’t – decades of experience and resources.
E-Transit customers will have access to Ford’s global network of dealers, 92% of which are certified to service electric vehicles (EVs) with more undergoing training, said Ivan Boykin, the automaker’s service manager. And, the van will have the same interior dimensions as gasoline-powered versions of the Transit, meaning it can use the same custom bodies and upfitter services. President and CEO Jim Farley said access to upfitters will give Ford a huge advantage in electric vans, just as it does with conventional ones.
“We’re focusing on what our van owners care about – cost of ownership and uptime,” Farley said at a virtual launch event for the vehicle. He added that with fewer moving parts, there are fewer things on the van that can break, improving uptime. Those lower service costs, coupled with lower fuel costs for electricity compared to gasoline, give the E-Transit a 40% lower projected cost of ownership throughout 8 years and 100,000 miles.
The automaker is investing $100 million at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri to make the electric van alongside conventional versions of the Transit.
E-Transit has slightly less horsepower than the traditional version but more torque, a common tradeoff with electric vehicles. And, range is only 126 miles per charge, on a good day. On cold days, that could fall significantly. Ford officials said they studied traditional Transit use patterns and found that the vast majority of vans traveled less than 80 miles per day.
Ford officials said they expect different users to explore different charging strategies with the van. Many van fleets encourage employees to take their vehicles home at the end of the day, effectively distributing mobile service fleets throughout a geographic area which allows faster service the next day because drivers are likely to be closer to customers. To make that work with electric vans, the company has developed apps that will track vehicle charging so companies can reimburse drivers for use of their home electricity.
Other drivers will opt for public fast chargers that are becoming more common nationwide. On a fast charger, a driver can put enough electricity in the van for 45 miles of range in about 15 minutes.
And, many fleet managers will choose to store and charge vans at centralized depots. Many delivery fleets, for example, pay fueling services to come in at night and add gasoline to vehicle tanks so higher-paid drivers don’t spend company time at gas stations. Those fleets can use large systems that can charge multiple vehicles simultaneously.
“Ford is ready to lead the charge, starting with the all-electric Transit and all-electric F-150 on the way,” Farley said. “This is good for the planet and a huge advantage for customers to help lower their operating costs and provide connected fleet management technologies that will help their businesses.”
About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and Today's eMobility and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 19 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.