Is Ford Readying a Plug-in People Mover?
Yesterday Ford announced a new vehicle in its lineup called the Transit Connect Wagon.
It is based on the current Transit Connect cargo van except the new vehicle is designed to carry people rather than cargo.
It is a modern new riff on the minivan that Ford President Mark Fields says “gives young families and people on the go the fun-to-drive and efficient vehicle they’ve been looking for.”
“It’s an all-new, smaller seven-seater that has better mileage than larger vans and creates a segment of its own. Customers also will love the unique combination of style, adaptability and affordability this wagon brings,” Fields adds.
The vehicle is available in two different wheelbases, one with 5 seats and the longer with 7 seats.
The vehicle is smaller and lighter than traditional vans and can come equipped with Ford’s highly efficient 1.6-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine. That combination says Ford will lead to better than 30 mpg in highway driving. “This powertrain makes Transit Connect Wagon the gas mileage leader among seven-passenger vehicles,” says Ford.
Where this gets even more interesting is the fact that Ford had sold (through now banktupt Azure Dynamics) a pure electric Transit Connect EV, which first went to market in 2010. That vehicle provides 80 miles of driving range from a 28 kwh lithium battery, for $60,000.
It therefore is not much of a leap to suspect Ford may be readying an Energi version of this vehicle as well. With the crossover C-Max Energi already on sale, and the Fusion sedan Energi coming next year, Ford could easily be prepared from an engineering and assembly perspective to offer a Transit Connect Energi later next year or 2014.
Considering the fuel efficiency, a 20 mile EV range with a near 40 hybrid mode mpg is not out of the question.
I have long been advocating for an automaker to create a practical plugin 7-seater for large families, and for the first time can see the possibility on the horizon. I asked Ford EV spokesperson Wes Sherwood about this.
“We always are looking at options to build on our fuel economy leadership,” he says. “But cannot discuss future product plans.”