Ford to Debut CNG, LPG and Electric Versions of Transit Connect Vans

Ford will debut new alternative fuel versions of its Transit Connect van by the end of the year.

The Transit Connect Taxi will be available with compressed natural gas or propane fuel systems, while the Transit Connect Electric will be the first of two new battery-powered vehicles from Ford.

Ford will offer an engine prep package on all Transit Connect Taxi models, allowing conversion to compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane (LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas). Both CNG and LPG are common among taxi operators because of their low cost.

The interior of the Transit Connect Taxi is suited for the conversion, according to Ford officials. The vehicle’s 135 cubic feet of cargo space accommodates a compressed gas tank but also leaves enough passenger legroom.

Transit Connect CNG Taxi m2011

The Ford Transit Connect Taxi will be available in CNG and LPG versions by the end of this year. Credit: NAFTC

“While meeting with taxi operators in cities throughout the U.S., we found considerable interest for vehicles that run on alternative fuels,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas. “The Transit Connect Taxi, combined with an engine modified by Ford to use CNG/LPG, is designed to meet that need. This marks a new era in ‘green’ transit.”

The Transit Connect Taxi is intended as a replacement for the Crown Victoria sedans that have dominated the cab market since the mid-90s. The tall roof van offers easy entry and exit for passengers with room in the back for luggage. Even in standard gasoline form, the Transit Connect, which is rated at 22 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, is more efficient than the 16/24 mpg Crown Victoria.

The new alternative fuel versions are equipped from the factory with fuel injectors and an engine control computer that is compatible with the selected fuel. Ford then ships the vehicle to an up-fitter that adds the taxi-specific equipment such as meters and partitions. The up-fitters remove the gasoline tank and install and connect either a CNG or propane tank.

Transit Connect Electric Van m2011

The Transit Connect Electric van will be useful for short-range delivery businesses such as florists, caterers and plumbers. Credit: NAFTC

The Transit Connect Electric van, which will be in fleet operators’ hands later this year, will use a Force Drive electric powertrain manufactured and integrated by Azure Dynamics. A zero-emissions small van, the Transit Connect Electric will have a top speed of 75 mph and a targeted range of up to 80 miles on a full charge.

While this may not be enough to suit average car buyers, it is plenty for businesses like caterers, florists and plumbers. These commercial owners typically do short-range, daily driving within a fixed radius from a home base where the vehicle can be stored and plugged in overnight.

“Transit Connect Electric exemplifies how we are leveraging our relationships as well as our hybrid and advanced powertrain programs to bring energy-efficient technologies from the laboratory to the street,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of global product development. “Not only is this an ideal vehicle for eco-conscious fleet operators, it is an important part of Ford’s future.”

Transit Connect Electric owners will have the choice of recharging the Transit Connect Electric with a standard 120-volt outlet or, as recommended by Ford, a 240-volt charge station installed at the user’s home or business. The latter option will provide optimal recharging within six to eight hours.

The vehicle’s charge port is located above the passenger-side rear wheel well, and the onboard liquid-cooled, 28-kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery pack is charged by connecting the charge port to a power outlet. Inside the van, an onboard charger converts the AC power from the electric grid to DC power to charge the battery pack.

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