February 18, 2020

Hybrid electric vans present practical, accessible solution for cleaner air, study suggests

Results of a year-long trial in London suggest that plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) commercial vehicles could present the most practical, readily available option for businesses trying to meet clean-air targets in cities.

The trial – which was supported by a £4.7m grant from the UK government-funded Advanced Propulsion Centre – consisted of 20 Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans covering 150,000 miles over a 12-month period. The trial sought to test whether businesses could carry out the typical daily duties of their diesel-powered vehicles, while maximising the use of zero-emissions electric-only mode.

The participants in the trial represented a cross-section of city-based businesses, and integrated the Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans into their day-to-day operations.

During the trial, 75 per cent of the fleet’s mileage in Central London and 49 per cent in Greater London was completed using pure electric power. Ford says the results highlight that even without a fully established electric vehicle charging network, the hybrid vans were able to reduce tailpipe emissions in the inner city, using the flexibility of a petrol range-extender to complete longer journeys when required.

“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,” said Mark Harvey, director, Urban Electrified Van programme. “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 has already incorporated learnings from the trial of prototype vehicles to optimise the Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid production model that will go on sale to customers at the end of 2019.

Further trials in Cologne and Valencia will provide data from different markets, cities and customer types, and will involve a mix of Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans and new Tourneo Custom Plug-In Hybrid people-movers.

“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,” Mark said. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive – operators don’t want to give them back.”