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Monday, May 3, 2010

Ford and Azure Dynamics Collaborate on Transit Connect Electric for Europe

Ford Motor Company and Azure Dynamics Corporation today announced that they have signed a collaborative agreement to begin delivering a pure battery electric version of the successful Ford Transit Connect van to customers in Europebeginning in late summer 2011.

Azure will integrate its Force Drive™ battery electric drive train into Transit Connect vehicles in Europe to support the sale of the zero-emission battery-electric models in selected markets.

The Ford Transit Connect was first launched in Europe in 2002 and is designed, engineered and constructed to meet the unique needs of small business operators who want the same levels of durability, functionality and strength that are hallmarks of the larger Ford Transit range. Precisely these qualities led to it receiving the 'International Van of the Year' award in 2003.

Under Ford's global ONE Ford initiative, the Transit Connect was also introduced to the U.S., and Canadian markets in 2009 and received the '2010 North American Truck of the Year' award at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

"We're proud of Transit Connect as it has conclusively proved itself to be a versatile, adaptable and thoroughly dependable vehicle for real world commercial customers," said John Fleming, Ford of Europe's Chairman and CEO. "Adding a practical, full battery-electric, zero-emission alternative to the range further demonstrates the enormous flexibility of this vehicle and gives customers the option of being among the first to adopt this environmentally friendly technology."

European project builds on existing business relationship

Ford's relationship with Azure Dynamics is already well established in North America and is now extending to Europe.

In North America, Azure develops hybrid electric and electric drive technology for shuttle buses and commercial trucks, such as the Balance™ Hybrid Electric, which is built on a Ford E-450 'cutaway and strip' chassis for the medium duty commercial vehicle segment.

Michigan-based Azure began work on its collaborative agreement to deliver the pure battery-electric powertrain for the Transit Connect in the U.S. and Canada in October 2009, and the extension of this collaboration into Europe is a logical next step and the first time Azure will operate in the region.

"We're excited about the extension of the Transit Connect Electric program to Europe and understand that putting electric vehicles on the world's roads in significant quantities will be a long term proposition," said Scott T. Harrison, Azure Dynamics CEO. "However, with the Transit Connect Electric, Ford and Azure are doing their part in helping to lead that transition."

"The European Union and individual governments are keen to encourage adoption of electric transportation technology because they understand the potential benefits to energy infrastructure and to society at large," Harrison added. "We believe that European commercial vehicle customers will be eager to adopt the Transit Connect Electric into their fleets, to demonstrate their commitment to becoming part of the solution."

Transit Connect is ideal platform for electrification

The Ford Transit Connect is built on a dedicated global commercial van platform and offers a unique combination of car-like driving dynamics, significant cargo capacity, accessibility and low purchase and operating costs. It is already a proven success and an ideal choice for electrification.

Commercial van users often travel predictable, short-range, routes with frequent stop and go driving in tight urban or suburban environments, resulting in a negative impact on the fuel efficiency of internal combustion engines - which gives the Transit Connect Electric an added economic benefit in busy urban centers. In addition commercial users generally return to a central location at the end of a driving cycle perfect for recharging over night.

The Transit Connect Electric will offer European fleet owners the opportunity to eliminate the use of diesel or petrol fuel in their small vans and help to lower operating costs. The vehicle will have a targeted range of up to 130 km/80 miles on a full charge and zero exhaust emissions. It will be rechargeable using standard European 220/240-volt outlets within 6 to 8 hours.

'Glider' units, vehicles built without the powertrain, will be shipped from the current Ford Otosan manufacturing facility in Kocaeli, Turkey, directly to an Azure-contracted manufacturing location in Europe for final assembly.

The completed Transit Connect Electric will then be sold by Azure Dynamics, who will define a specially-created network of dealerships. Repair works under the Ford warranty will be provided by Ford dealers. They will be offered in both right- and left-hand drive configurations. Further details of market availability and pricing will be announced closer to launch.

Azure's Force Drive™ components have previously been deployed in more than 40 vehicle integrations and have more than 25 million miles of on-the-road experience. The European Transit Connect Electric will be badged with both the Ford Blue Oval and Azure's Force Drive logo like its North American sibling.

Ford's Global Electric vehicles plan

At the 2010 Geneva Motor Show last month, Ford Motor Company confirmed that its global electric vehicles plan would be extending to Europe with five full electric or hybrid vehicles across its C, CD and light commercial vehicle ranges coming for European customers by 2013.

Specifically, Ford announced it would launch in Europe:

  • Two zero-emission full battery-electric vehicles: the light commercial Transit Connect Electric in 2011 followed by the Ford Focus Electric in 2012.
  • Two next-generation petrol hybrid-electric vehicles to be introduced in 2013
  • A plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle also to be introduced in 2013.

Ford's global electrification strategy will deliver a suite of electrified vehicles to a variety of markets and build on the company's overall vision of offering the widest possible range of technology solutions – instead of a single vehicle or technology – to improve fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions for customers around the world.

"We recognise that one technology does not work for all our customers," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of Global Product Development. "Our electrification strategy and plans include hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles to best meet our global customers' needs. Leveraging our global platforms is also central to this strategy and allows us to build on our strong product line-up in the most customer-driven, affordable way."

As Ford's global product vision accelerates to ensure that all the company's vehicles competing in global segments become common in Europe, North America and Asia, the resulting efficiencies will allow a global portfolio of environmentally friendly transportation solutions to be developed based around hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric and all-electric vehicles.

"There is increasing interest among a number of customers in Europe for electrified versions of vehicles like the Transit Connect so we are responding by stepping up our efforts to bring these models to the marketplace alongside our latest-generation, fuel-efficient petrol and diesel powered models," Fleming added. "This is further evidence of how the ONE Ford global product vision is transforming our business. European consumers will not have to wait too long before they can choose from a range of electrified alternatives from Ford."

Further details of Ford's hybrid and plug-in hybrid models will be revealed closer to launch.

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