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Ford to Partner with Azure on F-Series Plug-in

Technology to allow SuperDuty models to operate in electric-only mode.

by on Jul.29, 2011

Ford will turn to Azure Dynamics to convert the biggest of its F-Series models into plug-in hybrids.

Can the full-size pickup go from being a gas-guzzling behemoth to the poster child for environmental efficiency?  A new partnership teaming up Ford and Canadian-based Azure Dynamics aims to bring the F-Series truck a big step closer to being earth-friendly.

Early in 2013, the partners plan to come to market with a plug-in hybrid version of some of the biggest of Ford’s popular trucks, starting with the F-550 but later adding the F-450 and F-350 models.  The technology would allow the trucks to operate in electric-only mode at low speeds while also reducing fuel consumption at higher speeds in hybrid mode.

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Azure Dynamics has already been working with Ford on several projects including the battery-powered conversion of the Dearborn maker’s small commercial van, dubbed the Transit Connect Electric, as well as a version of the Ford E-Van converted to hybrid power.

For the moment, the partners aren’t saying much about the specific technology that will replace the conventional F-Series powertrain, though it is likely to be similar to the E-Van conversion, they hint.  The modified driveline, called the E-450 Balance, starts out with a conventional Ford 5.4-liter V-8 with a 5-speed automatic transmission.  But an electric motor connected to that gearbox provides alternative power in electric drive mode, while also adding battery assist during acceleration.  When coasting or braking it goes into regenerative mode to reclaim energy normally lost.


Ford Betting On Partners As It Tests Battery Car Market

Maker ready to go it alone if market demand grows.

by on Dec.07, 2010

Ford will sell the Transit Connect Electric for $57,400, and expects demand for at least 700 during the coming year.

If it weren’t for the banner blowing in the wind over the front door one might not realize there was a revolution brewing inside the small, non-descript warehouse, along an industrial strip in the Detroit suburbs.

Operated by AM General, the company better known for producing the military’s trademark HUMMVEE, the facility has been quietly converting Ford’s little Transit Connect van to run on electric propulsion.  The first several dozen Transit Connect Electric vans will be reaching customers before year’s end.  And if they prove successful, 700 or 700 could follow in 2011.

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In automotive terms, that’s not much, but as the market for electric vehicles slowly begins to ramp up, that’s nonetheless a significant development suggests Sherif Marakby, who oversees Ford’s electrification program.

The maker had made a hefty investment in battery power back in the 1990s – reluctantly, under pressure from California regulators who had hoped they could mandate a battery car market.  The project failed and Ford, like its competitors, slashed its investment in the technology.  Now, however, battery power seems to be coming back, in part due to new regulations, but also because of new technologies, as well as public concerns about issues as far flung as global warming and the import of Mideast oil.


Ford Set To Roll Out First Transit Connect Electric Vans

First 29 set to begin fleet tests by year-end.

by on Nov.11, 2010

Ford's first electric vehicle will be a version of the Transit Connect utility van.

You might miss the little white van, hidden in the back of a nondescript warehouse in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park, but it could kick off a significant revolution in the years ahead.

Later this month, the first 29 of those vans – or more precisely, those Transit Connect Electric vans – will begin to roll out of that warehouse, 14 of them heading for fleet tests in the U.K., the rest going to fleets here in the U.S.

The Transit Connect Electric is one of two battery-electric vehicles that Ford plans to bring to market in the next couple years, the other model being a lithium-powered version of the next-generation Focus.  The program has been pushed back a bit, at least in terms of retail sales, giving the maker a bit more opportunity to test the new models under more controlled fleet conditions.

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The Detroit maker has taken an unusually entrepreneurial approach to its initial battery car efforts, turning to two outside suppliers to help it get to market more quickly.  The Canadian mega-supplier, Magna, is taking the lead role in developing the Focus Electric, while another Canadian firm, Azure Dynamics, is spearheading the Transit Connect battery van project.

“We can do it quicker and for less money,” explained Azure Dynamics Chief Operating Officer Curt Huston, during an interview at the firm’s suburban Detroit facility.  The firm takes “gliders,” versions of the Transit Connect produced without a powertrain, and installs its own electric driveline.