FORD GETS DOWN TO BUSINESS WITH TRANSIT CONNECT

Tradesmen and small-business owners will have a new compact work-van option when the Transit Connect lands in Ford Motor Co. showrooms this summer. Designed specifically for working applications, this all-purpose vehicle is already a popular choice in Europe, where it has been available since 2002.

Built by Ford in Turkey for export worldwide, the Transit Connect will compete here with such currently available work vehicles as the compact Chevy HSS, the small Dodge Sprinter, and the full-size Dodge Ram. Unlike the HSS and Ram vans, however, the Transit Connect is a purpose-built work vehicle intended for customization by authorized aftermarket upfitters to suit a variety of jobs and businesses. It offers 22/25 mpg (city/highway) fuel economy, up to 1,600 pounds of cargo capacity, and a starting price of $21,475.

Even before the first gas-powered Transit Connects go on sale here, Ford has announced that it is planning to offer a battery-powered, all-electric version of the vehicle for the U.S. market sometime next year. The vehicle will be developed by Smith Electric Vehicles, a U.S. subsidiary of the U.K.-based Tanfield Group. According to Ford, SEV already produces medium-duty commercial battery-electric versions of the Transit, as it's known in Europe.

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Ford Transit Connect Work Van

BATTERY-ELECTRIC DELIVERY TRUCKS TO BE BUILT IN K.C.

Smith Electric Vehicles has announced plans to build all-electric, zero-emission commercial vehicles near its Kansas City, Mo., headquarters beginning later this year. Production will initially focus on battery-powered vehicles for depot-based fleets.

The start-up will initially employ 120 people, assisted by $3 million in job training funds and incentives from the state of Missouri and Kansas City. SEV U.S. Corp., a subsidiary of a U.K.-based company that has been producing electric vehicles for the European market since 1920, has already signed partnership agreements to provide vehicles for major U.S. fleet operators and utilities. Vehicles produced here will use components and chassis from multiple vehicle manufacturers.

The first truck to be built at the all-new plant will be the Smith Newton, a proven model that is the world's largest battery-electric-powered truck. It has a top speed of up to 50 mph, a range of over 100 miles on one six- to eight-hour lithium-ion battery charge, and a payload of up to 16,280 pounds. The vehicle will use a 120-kilowatt motor and drive system built by another U.S. company, Enova Systems of Torrance, Calif.

Bryan Hansel, chief executive officer of SEV U.S. Corp., said the start-up will help to reduce the cost of other commercial electric vehicles over time: "As more truck fleets adopt this technology, it will drive advancements in battery technology (and) drive down manufacturing costs."

Through its U.K. partner, the Tanfield Group PLC, SEV U.S. Corp. is working with Ford Motor Co. to electrify the Ford Transit Connect as a battery-electric light-duty van scheduled for production in 2010.

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Smith Newton Electric Truck