Ford's got two new flavors of Transit Connect targeted squarely at the commercial market. One's an all-electric. The other's a customized Transit Connect running compressed natural gas or LPG for taxi fleets across the country — including New York City.
The Ford Transit Connect is one of the rare cases of commercial vehicle that's actually pretty neat. It's compact, fuel efficient, has massive payload capacity and tons of room. Now Ford's adding a couple new twists to the lineup — CNG or LPG capability for a Taxi version and an all-electric version for other commercial applications. The Transit Connect Electric serves as a harbinger of things to come, with the electric Focus Sedan will launch following the Transit Connect and a next generation hybrid system including pug-ins coming in 2012. So what's under the hood on the electric Transit? Well, literally there's a motor controller and a electric motor to start with, but in a more figurative sense there's also a lithium-ion battery good for eighty miles of driving. With a 220V charging system it'll charge in four hours, the traditional eight hours at 120V. The finished chassis comes into the US without a powertrain and will head to an as-yet unannounced site in Michigan for electrical upfit by Azure Dynamics, the supplier on the controls and drive line. Acceleration is on par with the standard Transit Connect with a top speed of 75 MPH.
The Taxi version's the one with more upside potential for Ford. With the ubiquitous Crown Victoria nearing the end of its long and illustrious taxi career, something will have to replace it — especially given the NYC TLC has put out a new bid for a replacement product. Enter the Transit Connect Taxi. It's the standard Transit Connect passenger version outfitted for taxi duty with 3 inches of additional leg room in the back, an integrated fare tracking system, a specialized version of the Ford Works Solutions system up front, and a combined information and entertainment and fare collecting system in the back. The Taxi is also being shown with the Compressed Natural Gas system fitted to the vehicle. It includes modified engine controls and fuel delivery system as well as a tank behind the passenger seat. There's also the option of LPG and both systems can be had on a non-Taxi Transit Connect, if you place a big enough commercial order.
Ford spokespeople are clear "the New York City taxi business is very important to us" but they're also telling us that they're still examining the bid by New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) for the next-generation taxi cabs. But, that said, for the moment we're being told that the Transit Connect taxi you see above stands a damn good shot at being their candidate to replace the ol' and busted Crown Vic. So although it's not yet Ford's final choice, they frankly don't have any other choices to throw down with.