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.
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.