CommercialFleet

First drive: Ford Transit Connect Electric

Ford

Review

Ford has joined the electric van fray with a new version of the Connect powered by battery.

The Connect was available as the Ampere from Smith Electric Vehicles but this van will cease production and the new version is a pure Ford offering to be sold through its dealers and warranty-backed by Ford.
The Connect has been produced in association with Azure Dynamics and will be sold in long wheelbase high-roof format only and in Trend spec.

The batteries are slung beneath the van’s floor so that cargo volume at 3.8 cubic metres matches the Connect’s diesel counterpart.

However, payload reduces by 120kg to 575kg as a result of the batteries’ weight.

Price is £39,995 ex-VAT but Ford is also offering five-year lease packages, costed by predicting zero residual value after this period.

The move highlights one of the problems of putting values and costings on electric vehicles.

That said, a three-year-old Smith Edison Transit EV recently achieved a resell value of around 20% at a BCA auction, giving some indication.

Just to repay a £40k van over five years means a monthly lease of £666, with no SMR or APR included.

It’s possible this Connect could be costed out at close to £800 a month.

A standard Connect, priced £13,750, costs around £220 a month to lease.

Gary Whittam, director sales and marketing Europe for Azure Dynamics, claims the extra cost will be recouped in three to four years, not including savings by not paying the London congestion charge.

He said: “A diesel van doing 20,000 miles per year will use £4,000 of fuel compared to £350-worth of electricity . There are also major savings on servicing costs.”

The Connect will have a range of around 80 miles fully laden but Whittam does not believe that will be a problem for city-based fleets.

He said: “A lot of vans do less than that every day and many that do more could be brought under this figure with a bit of planning.

“One of the tasks we have is to try and make fleet operators consider different ways of working.”

Behind the wheel

I have been behind the wheel of a few electric-powered vans of late and they are all great fun to drive.

They take a bit of getting used to, mind you.

Climb aboard and turn the key and absolutely nothing happens.

We are so used to engine noise now that the peace and serenity that exists in an electric van at standstill just doesn’t seem right.

Dab your foot on the throttle and the van moves off in eerie silence, almost as though it is gliding along by magic.

The Connect on test featured an automatic-style gear selector in the centre console and the rev counter was replaced by a large dial which tells you how many miles you can travel before you run out of juice.

Apart from that, the Connect could be any other model.

As my co-pilot and I glided along effortlessly round the country lanes near Meriden, we were able to chat comfortably without raised voices.

There is a low whine but that’s about it for noise.

The strange thing is though that you hear all sorts of other little noises that are usually blanked off by the engine noise – a little suspension creak hear, a tiny rattle there etc.

My only dodgy moment came when we parked the van at the end of our drive.

A journalist from a rival magazine just didn’t hear us and nearly came a cropper under our wheels.

In a world where electric vehicles are common, pedestrians are going to have to get used to using their eyes as well as their ears to stay out of trouble.

Verdict

Driving-wise I give a big thumbs-up to this van.

But fleets will have to do some serious number crunching to make sure their operations are suitable for this type of vehicle before making a final buying decision.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.



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