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Ford and Smith Terminate Partnership on Electric Transit Connect Project for US; Ford Now Partnering with Azure Dynamics to Deliver the Vehicle in 2010; Smith Partnering with AM General on Electric Vans for USPS

Ford Motor Company and Smith Electric Vehicles US (SEV US) have mutually agreed to terminate the development project of an electric car-derived van based on Transit Connect. (Earlier post.)

In a trading statement issued today, UK-based Tanfield Group, SEV US’ parent, said that given the growth in demand for its production-ready Smith Newton, the forecast volumes of the electric Transit Connect did not, in the short- to medium-term, justify the investment requirement to deliver the vehicle, and also limited the working capital available to support the growth of Newton. SEV US has commenced production of the Smith Newton electric truck platform at its assembly facility in Kansas City, Missouri, and currently has an order book of 255 trucks.

Tanfield said that SEV US Corp believes that investing in the existing Smith platforms represents a better use of its financial resources, allowing it to take full advantage of a potentially very sizeable market and to gain market traction more quickly. It was concerned that the market for electric car-derived vans would become increasingly competitive. Tanfield remains Ford of Europe’s official collaborator on commercial electric vehicles, initially focused solely on the Ford Transit platform, which is marketed as the Smith Edison.

Ford and Azure. Ford Motor Company will now partner with Azure Dynamics Corporation to deliver a pure battery electric Ford Transit Connect van for the United States and Canadian markets in 2010.

Oak Park, Mich.-based Azure Dynamics will integrate its proprietary battery electric drivetrain (branded Force Drive) into the Transit Connect BEV, which will have a targeted range of 80 miles minimum on a full charge. 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 vehicle will be badged with both the Ford Blue Oval and Azure’s Force Drive logo.

Azure Dynamics has selected Johnson Controls-Saft as the supplier for lithium-ion battery cells and battery packs for the Transit Connect BEV. Azure Dynamics and Ford both currently utilize Johnson Controls-Saft battery technology for other products. The Transit Connect BEV will use the same proven cell technology that is currently deployed in the Ford Escape plug-in hybrid fleet that is on the road today.

In addition, Azure had previously announced it would use Johnson Controls-Saft lithium-ion batteries for its E- 450 Balance Hybrid Electric beginning in the second half of 2010.

The collaboration with Azure Dynamics for the Transit Connect BEV will build on the existing business relationship between Ford and Azure as well as their shared experience with battery supplier, Johnson Controls-Saft. Azure Dynamics develops hybrid electric and electric drive technology for shuttle buses and commercial trucks, such as the Balance Hybrid Electric, which is built on the Ford E-450 cutaway and strip chassis for the medium duty commercial vehicle segment.

The Transit Connect BEV will be built on Ford’s global commercial vehicle platform as part of the company’s One Ford global product vision. It is the first of four electrified vehicles from Ford that will become available over the next three years in the US and Canada including:

  • Battery electric Transit Connect van in 2010
  • Battery electric Ford Focus passenger car in 2011
  • Next-generation hybrid vehicle in 2012
  • Plug-In hybrid vehicle in 2012

The opportunity to work with Ford on the Transit Connect BEV is a breakthrough advancement for us at Azure and for the light commercial vehicle market. For Azure, it’s an important evolution of our existing relationship with Ford. From an industry standpoint, we are seeing delivery fleet and utility vehicle operators move to smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. The Transit Connect BEV will come to market at an ideal time to meet this growing trend.

—Scott Harrison, Azure Dynamics CEO

The final manufacturing location for the Transit Connect BEV has not yet been determined.

SEV US and AM General. SEV US Corp, together with AM General, a leading manufacturer of military and commercial vehicles, headquartered in South Bend, Indiana, USA, is developing a prototype electric version of the gasoline-powered Long Life Vehicle for the United States Postal Service (USPS).

There are currently approximately 178,000 Long Life Vehicles in service with the USPS. AM General will manufacture the chassis and SEV US Corp will supply the electric drive train, including the motor, battery pack, electronics and ancillary systems.

With AM General we combine a global leader in specialist vehicles with a world leader in electric vehicle integration. The goal is to deliver an electric vehicle that is perfect for the United States Postal Service; a vehicle that is energy efficient, cost-effective, reduces US reliance on oil and lowers greenhouse gas emissions.

—Darren Kell, CEO of The Tanfield Group Plc

On 6 August 2009, SEV US Corp won $10 million in grant funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE), to facilitate its growth towards volume production and to build a demonstration fleet of electric trucks. In addition, SEV US Corp customers have been awarded funding for 65 Smith Newton electric trucks, amounting to $4.5 million, through the US Clean Cities Program. SEV US Corp is applying for more funding through the US Government green vehicles programs.


Jim Mbongo

I honestly think Ford is making a huge mistake by seeking alliance for its EV, PHEV & Hybrid cars. As the market for these vehicles will continue to growth, Ford will face mounts problems related to the intellectual properties. What happened to Ford-Navistar alliance?


Don't know what happened to Ford-Navistar alliance, but last I checked Navistar had joined up with Modec, the British manufacturer of really cool looking electric trucks.

Carlos Fandango

255 trucks on the order books is worthy. That's going to generate a fair bit of battery volume.

From a previous article on the arrangement with Valence Smith said they were aiming for $500 per KWh. That included BMS and controls.

Gives me quite a bit of hope on the road to $250/KWh and below.

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