With the reveal of the upcoming 2022 all-electric Ford E-Transit, the fleet industry enters a new era of commercial vehicles, which includes electrification, connectivity, over-the-air updates, and cloud-enabled services designed to better serve their customers and improve fleet productivity.
“We are creating a whole new digital business of services and data to unlock an unlimited set of solutions for customers to help them reduce cost, increase uptime, improve productivity and grow their businesses,” said Jim Farley, president & CEO of Ford Motor Company, last November 2020 at the reveal of the 2022 E-Transit all-electric van. “Ford has committed to being carbon neutral by 2050. If we’re going to do our part, we must transition commercial vehicles to zero emissions. For us, it starts with the E-Transit.”
Full-size high roof cargo vans are in strong demand, especially as the pandemic changed the way companies do business. In the U.S. alone, e-commerce sales rose nearly 50% in the second quarter of 2020 and demand for delivery-vehicles rose with it.
“We expect that global demand for full-size vans will grow another third by the end of this decade including a potential market for 1.1 million full-size, fully electric, connected commercial vehicles worldwide,” said Ted Cannis, general manager North American Commercial Business for Ford Motor Company.
Variety of Configurations
The 2022 E-Transit will be available in eight body-style configurations, including cargo van, chassis cab, and cutaway versions, with three roof heights and three body lengths.
While the E-Transit looks the same on the exterior as the current gasoline-powered Transit, it is new underneath, with optimized zero-emissions driving range for service and delivery jobs. The E-Transit is rated at 266 horsepower and more than 300 lb.-ft. of torque. This is similar power but significantly more torque than the standard gasoline engine.
During the design process, much consideration was given to determining the right range and battery capacity for the E-Transit. “One of the benefits of having north of 40% market share is that we were able to look at 30 million miles of telematics analysis for work vans. In the U.S., the average commercial van actually drives only 74 miles on the average day,” said Yaro Hetman, global marketing director, electric trucks, vans, and commercial vehicles for Ford. “Of course, we also recognize that there are days when these range needs are higher. And the customers will also need to adjust for factors such as cold weather and payload. We took all this into account when designing E-Transit. It was created with the targeted estimated range of up to 126 miles.”
The cargo area in the E-Transit is the same as the gasoline-equivalent Transit van and was designed with the same easy-access points and dimensions offering minimal impact to upfit configurations.
The battery is packaged under the load floor and is protected by the chassis side beams in an insulated case.
“Payload capacity for the Transit cutaway is 4,290 pounds and for the cargo van it’s 3,800 pounds. So, it’s still a very credible payload. When you look at an internal combustion engine Transit van, that tops out at 4,650 pounds. While we’re below that, in conversations with dozens of our largest global customers, that is a credible and sufficient payload,” said Hetman.
E-Transit also has the first heavy-duty, independent rear suspension of any electric van in the U.S., specially designed for rear-wheel drive to give a smoother ride and more traction when the vehicle has increased payload.
Servicing the E-Transit
Fleets tend to focus on two factors – total cost of ownership and uptime, both of which favor EVs. According to Ford, E-Transit owners should save about 40% on operating costs that are tied to scheduled maintenance versus a gasoline-powered Transit during each vehicle’s lifetime.
“There are nearly 90% fewer parts in the E-Transit’s propulsion system than internal-combustion-powered vans, reducing the potential for expensive repairs,” said Cannis.
For times when an E-Transit does need service, Ford has more than 600 dedicated commercial vehicle centers in North America. “We have service capability and parts available for Class 1 through 7 trucks and vans. In addition, 92% of them are EV-certified. This on top of 2,200 retail dealers means Ford’s got fleet customers and small businesses covered,” said Ivan Boykin, general manager commercial vehicle centers North America for Ford Motor Co. “We’re very much aware that some customers may have some concerns or trepidations about the new electrification technology. And that’s precisely the reason why it was important for us to provide reassurance with an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on the battery.”
Maximizing uptime was a critical consideration in designing the E-Transit. When a work van isn’t on the road, it isn’t making money.
“Fleet managers want to spend less time having their vehicles serviced, maintained, and repaired, particularly non-scheduled work, which can really damage their reputations with their customers,” said Cannis.
According to Ford, its dealer network will be absolutely essential to supporting fleet customers with E-Transit. The dealer network footprint also offers the capabilities to service fleets that operate across multiple states.
No Change for Upfitters
The majority of commercial vans are upfitted, making this a critical area of concern for fleet managers.
“E-Transit is very configurable. What you can do with Transit is really only limited by your imagination. And we work closely with our upfitters to deliver that,” said Ray Eyles, North American chief program engineer for Ford.
The E-Transit includes all the available cargo capacity of the gasoline-powered Transit and familiar mounting points to seamlessly include carryover racks, shelves, and other conversions.
“Fleet customers need racks and bins, partitions, subflooring, a pull-out shelving, or built-in tool chest to hold their equipment, tools, and consumables. The all-electric E-Transit has the same interior mounting points and cargo capacity customers have come to expect in their current gasoline-powered Transit,” said Cannis.
Cargo capacity is just as important as payload for these fleets. Walkthrough access from the cab to the cargo area is critical, as well as easier movement across the cab to allow drivers to exit more safely. To facilitate this, the electronic park brake was positioned in the instrument panel freeing up space between seats to make it easier to walk through to access the cargo area.
“The battery in the cargo van is fully underneath the floor, so it’s uncompromised cargo, whether it’s payload or upfits. On the chassis cab, it’s also in between the frame rails underneath. So, the important part there is whether you’re talking cargo van or chassis cab, the ability to still have the same or similar type of upfits is what’s important,” said Hetman.
The battery is manufactured by LG Chem, which is the same supplier for the battery in the Mustang Mach-E.
In the current pandemic, delivery companies are keeping people stocked up with food and supplies at home or work. “We know their vehicles drive regular routes, short but intensive, with lots of stopping and starting, often 200-plus times a day,” said Cannis. “And they’re usually part of a large fleet based at a warehouse or distribution depot, which would be ideal for efficient charging. And these vehicles have to be connected and tracked by the operators, possibly even geofenced for maximum productivity. Giving the fleet manager optimal control from his or her desk. So, all together, they need enough range for their daily route, and they need efficient charging overnight.”
Ford is providing simplified access to North America’s largest public charging network. Over 13,500 chargers that also includes access to the DC fast-charging network for when you need a quick boost.
“At Ford, we’ll be offering an ecosystem of charging solutions to fit all charging needs at home, at your business solution, or on the road,” said Hetman.
The Ford E-Transit has a central charge point in the upper grille. Many companies allow their employees to take their work vans home at night. To ensure that E-Transit drivers will be ready for work the next morning, the standard Ford mobile charger will deliver up to 10 miles of range per charging hour when plugged into a 240-volt outlet. However, for those who need faster home charging, Ford will also offer the Ford Connected Charge Station. It will provide up to 15 miles per charging hour and can charge the E-Transit to 100% in 8 hours, even if starting from a fully depleted battery.
Power Onboard on Demand
An important consideration in the design of the E-Transit was access to power, which was viewed as essential. Most companies use inverters or external power supplies. The capability to use the power from an electric vehicle battery is a real advantage, allowing workers to plug-in tools anywhere.
“That 67-kilowatt battery is what powers up to 2.4 kilowatts. This basically eliminates the need to install inverters, because you can power an orbital sander and a miter saw at the same time for an entire day at a construction zone, or whatever other tool you’re using, and still have plenty of range to get back to where you need to go. It just makes it a lot easier for our customers to get the work done,” said Julius Marchwicki, chief operating officer for Ford Commercial Solutions.
Many fleets install inverters into their current vans to power tools and equipment on the jobsite. Pro Power Onboard allows this without having to rely on external inverter upfits. The E-Transit is capable of up to 2.4 kilowatts of exportable power, which is enough to accommodate a variety of tools used at a jobsite.
Enhanced ADAS Features
With the E-Transit, Ford has significantly enhanced the suite of driver-assist technologies for safer and more efficient driving. Reverse Brake Assist is new for the E-Transit. It applies brakes while reversing when an object is detected. And linked to that is the new 360-degree cameras providing views from front, rear, and side of the vehicle. “We’ve introduced a new rotary e-shifter, which replaces the gear lever, opening up more leg room around the steering area,” said Marchwicki.
Expanded Telematics Capabilities
Telematics and data are extremely important to fleet management. Today, fleet managers have access to massive amounts of data available from a growing number partners in the telematics space.
“With E-Transit, our portfolio of connected services expands significantly. We’re adding simple and easy-to-use web and app interfaces to help fleets with energy and vehicle management. These tools allow fleet managers to remotely manage access to public charging for drivers and have vehicle-level reporting to reimburse drivers for charging at home,” said Marchwicki.
Battery-electric vehicle data will provide key insights and real-time access for fleet managers to monitor and control individual vehicles. For example, they may be alerted if a vehicle is not plugged in for recharging when it should be.
“Ford is able to monitor how the vehicle is using energy and how much energy the vehicle consumes,” said Marchwicki. “Energy consumption reporting help fleet managers identify reimbursement needs for drivers who take their work vehicles home at night. All of our web-based tools like these are going to help fleet managers be able to monitor the entire fleetwide distance to empty, kilowatt-per-hour charging speeds, consumption, and so much more.”
The E-Transit also offers driver ID that can be used in pool operations or where different crews or drivers are driving the same vehicle. The driver ID feature links vehicle data to the individual driver, so fleets can have an accurate record of which driver is driving a certain vehicle.
“The driver ID capability to link a driver to a vehicle has been something our commercial customers have been asking us for a long time. A driver will enter a driver-specific PIN code into the SYNC 4 display. By associating a driver with a specific vehicle, managers can analyze performance metrics to potentially identify new coaching opportunities to help manage driver performance,” said Marchwicki.
In addition, the E-Transit includes new connected fleet-management features, like the ability to remotely configure, manage, and monitor vehicles after hours, such as receiving notifications if a vehicle is potentially being stolen, towed, or sustains damage in a parking lot. If any of these events occur, GPS tracking allows managers to see the location of their vehicles even when they are turned off.
Ford Data Services integrates dynamics data from the vehicle to telematics providers, eliminating the need for a third-party plugin. “The way our data services products work is we’re really championing the power of choice. Every commercial customer and every commercial fleet is going to have different needs. Our partners are Samsara or Verizon Connect, we can provide the vehicle dynamics data for customers that choose to use that particular solution,” said Marchwicki.
The E-Transit has real-time in-vehicle driver coaching that can help improve driver performance using the SYNC 4 voice assistant. “The in-cab coaching capabilities are based on vehicle dynamics. Any time a driver exceeds a speed limit, rapidly accelerates, brakes harshly, leaves the engine running while parked, or fails to fasten a seatbelt, they will receive an in-cab audio message asking them to correct their behavior,” said Marchwicki. “By integrating this service directly into our vehicles, businesses can better promote safe driving behavior, optimize energy usage on their vehicles, and reduce wear and tear without installing extra hardware.”
Another connected feature on the E-Transit is intelligent range, which factors in real-time conditions, the terrain and elevation of a given route, traffic conditions, even the temperature at the final destination. All this to provide a more accurate estimate of the vehicle’s range. This accuracy is important to fleet managers to help them plan better routes and maximize uptime.
The E-Transit is equipped with a standard embedded modem, with 4G LTE Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices. When activated, that modem also allows over-the-air updates to the onboard SYNC system, keeping maps up to date, real-time information, and enhancements to the driver-assistance technologies.
Ford has created EV data solutions that complement E-Transit. “One of the great things we’ve added with our new web-based tools is all of the great reporting around how the energy management is going to and from the vehicle,” said Marchwicki.