Report: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Commercial Vehicles Viable Option in London

A study that used 20 Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans in the United Kingdom suggests that plug-in hybrids could present the most practical, readily available option for businesses trying to meet clean-air targets.
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Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid van
Plug-in hybrid vans might be the most viable option for businesses in cities with strict clean-air targets, according to a trial that used 20 Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans in the U.K. // Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

A study that used 20 Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans in the United Kingdom suggests that plug-in hybrids could present the most practical, readily available option for businesses trying to meet clean-air targets.

The research comes three months after the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone in London. The trial was supported by the U.K. government-funded Advanced Propulsion Centre, and the vans covered 150,000 miles over 12 months. It was designed to test whether businesses could carry out the typical duties of their diesel-powered vehicles while maximizing the use of zero-emissions electric-only mode.

The companies that participated in the trial represented a cross-section of city-based businesses and integrated the vans into their daily operations.

During the trial, 75 percent of the fleet’s mileage in central London and 49 percent in greater London were completed using pure electric power, despite the lack of a fully established electric vehicle charging network.

Commercial vehicles in London travel a combined 8 million miles on a typical weekday, and the figure is rising. Vans represent 75 percent of peak freight traffic, with more than 7,000 vehicles per hour driving at peak times in central London alone. A similar picture can be found in other major European cities, driven partly by growth in online retail.

Tighter emissions controls are being introduced throughout the continent, increasing pressure on businesses to find sustainable solutions.

“Emissions-free mobility is essential for the future of our cities and their citizens, but we know there are still barriers we face in the move to electrification,” says Mark Harvey, director of the Urban Electrified Van program. “We also know that businesses still have legitimate concerns about the range of fully-electric vehicles, as well as their cost-effectiveness and reliability. These trials have helped Ford and its customers to investigate the extent to which PHEVs can help to achieve urban air quality goals, whilst not compromising on productivity.”

Ford plans to increase motor performance, optimize operating strategies, and revise displays to educate drivers in achieving maximum electric regeneration. The model will go on sale to customers at the end of this year.

Trials in Cologne, Germany and Valencia, Spain also will provide data and will involve a mix of Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans and new Tourneo Custom Plug-In Hybrid people movers. The two models will offer plug-in hybrid technology and offer a standard eight-year battery warranty.

The new vehicles target a zero-emission driving range of 31 miles and use a 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine as a range extender for total range exceeding 310 miles, eliminating range anxiety. A battery pack located under the vehicle floor can be charged using a standard 230-volt supply and is designed so the interior space and load capacity are not compromised.

“This trial is the first time Ford has given such early prototype vehicles to customers, and we’ve been able to incorporate their feedback directly into the production van,” says Harvey. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive – operators don’t want to give them back.”

Ford announced that a new all-electric Ford Transit will join the company’s European line-up of electrified commercial vehicles in 2021. The new van will be designed to be cleaner, quieter, and have reduced running costs.

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