It doesn’t look any different than a regular van, and behind the wheel, it doesn’t really feel all that different. But Ford’s Transit Connect Electric could be one of the vehicles that changes the way we drive.
The company presented this compact work van at a recent event in Toronto. The event’s focus — no pun intended — was the electric Ford Focus hatchback that will go on sale next year. But the Transit Connect, and similar battery-powered trucks already in use in many areas around the world, could instead be the start of weaning us off gasoline.
For one thing, large companies are more likely to be able to afford these pricier battery versions. The electric Transit Connect is around $63,000, compared to the gasoline version’s starting price of $26,799. That’s primarily because of the battery, which is coming down in price but is still very expensive.
Automakers have been able to make viable electric cars since the late 1800s, but battery technology and the volume production that brings down the price haven’t kept pace.
The Transit Connect uses a high-voltage lithium ion battery pack, which is lighter and more powerful than lead acid or nickel metal hydride batteries.
Battery vehicles are also ideal for companies that send trucks out on a set route and return them to a central depot where they can be recharged overnight.
Canada Post already has a few of these electric vans in use. Recharging the battery takes about 12 hours on regular household current or about six-to-eight hours on a 240-volt charger.
I drove the van on a closed course in Toronto’s Exhibition Place. Battery vehicles are certainly not golf carts: the Transit Connect can reach 120 km/h, and since electric motors make their full power right from a standstill — unlike a gasoline engine, which has to rev up first — the truck has more than enough pep to handle daily traffic.
Its system captures energy when you’re braking, feeding it back into the battery to increase the range, which is approximately 95 to 130 km on a full charge. Best of all, there is no tailpipe, and so no emissions when sitting in traffic.
It could well be that the road for electric cars will first be paved by the electric truck.