Ford will be trialling a fleet of plug-in hybrid Transit vans with owner-driver customers this year in preparation for a full launch of the vehicle in Europe in 2019.
The trial will involve 20 petrol-electric vehicles with a variety of organisations including local authorities and trade bodies that represent small-time operators.
Its aim is to gather as much information as it can about the practicality and usability of the hybrid vehicles in a market that is normally sceptical about new technologies.
Speaking at last week’s SMMT Connected event, Dr Graham Hoare, Director of Global Vehicle Evaluation and Verification Ford Product Development, said, “The so-called ‘white van man’ is typically tech-averse and we feel it is better to tackle this head-on. They are a specific breed that is very cost-conscious and productivity focused, and we want to work with these people directly to see what we can learn.”
One of the key areas Ford wants to look at is practicality. A petrol-electric hybrid usually requires a sizeable battery and that could compromise the overall package of the plug-in Transit. The aim is to make sure the space needed to accommodate the battery will not be at the expense of the vehicle’s payload.
Dr Hoare added, ‘Our challenge is to not reduce the payload capacity while delivering environmental and cost benefits.”
What is certain is the implementation of hybrid powertrain which will combine electric and petrol motors in order to fend off so-called ‘range anxiety’.
The trials will be held over a 12-month period and it is expected that the final spec and format of the plug-in Transit will be based on the feedback.
Ford Australia will be introducing a new version of the Transit Custom this year featuring the latest 2.0 litre diesel engine and automatic transmission.