February 18, 2020

Ford Transits transformed with new tech

Ford has launched updated Transit and Transit Custom models, offering improved performance, increased fuel economy and a range of new technologies.

The line-up includes revised power ratings, 48V mild hybrids (MHEV) and the introduction of the Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) Custom that has been trialled in London over the past 12 months.

At the heart of the changes are updates to the firm’s EcoBlue 2.0-litre diesel engine, which features new steel pistons, an upgraded turbocharger, a variable flow oil pump and higher fuel injection pressures. These are said to result in up to a 7% improvement in fuel efficiency, with Auto Start-Stop now included as standard on all models.

The engine is available with ratings of 105hp, 130hp, 170hp and a range-topping 185hp, which comes with a mighty 415Nm of torque. All drive through a six-speed manual gearbox, while front-wheel drive models can also be specified with a six-speed automatic transmission. From early next year, it will also be possible to order rear-drive vans with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Customers seeking maximum fuel efficiency can also specify a 48V mild hybrid package on any of the vans. This includes a belt-driven integrated starter generator that feeds a 48V lithium-ion 10Ah battery pack, mounted beneath the passenger seat. The battery captures charge from the vehicle’s braking system, using that energy to help power the electric power assisted steering, the air conditioning and other load-heavy electrical systems.

There is an enhanced start-stop feature, cutting the engine as soon as the vehicle is stationary, even when in gear. The resulting fuel saving is said to be up to 3% in varied use, or as high as 8% when the van is used in a stop/start urban operation.

The MHEV system adds around 27kg to the weight of the vans, but Ford has cut weight elsewhere, taking 15kg out of the rear axle, saving 5.4kg with an aluminium bonnet and cutting 4.4kg with the use of a composite bulkhead. In total Ford is claiming payload gains of up to 80kg in front-wheel drive vans and up to 48kg for rear-drive models.

For those looking to make more of a move towards an electric future, Ford has finally released its Transit Custom PHEV to the market. The electric drive Custom uses a 1.0-litre petrol engine as a range-extender, offering up to 35 miles of zero emission range and a total driving range of up to 310 miles. Ford is claiming up to 91.7mpg and 60g/km of CO2 emissions.

The wheels are turned by a 92.9kW electric motor, powered by a 13.6kWh battery pack. This takes 4.3 hours to fully charge on a domestic 240V supply, or 2.7 hours using a Type 2 16A supply. The battery is also charged by the petrol engine when driving. The PHEV has multiple driving modes, that allow the driver to operate as a pure EV, to save electrical energy to the battery for zero emission driving within a city centre or to charge the battery while driving. Ford will introduce a geofencing module as standard next year, that will automatically put the van into EV mode when it enters a predefined driving area, such as the ULEZ area.

Having removed a heavy diesel engine and gearbox, replacing them with a much lighter petrol engine and compact lithium-ion battery pack, there is no loss of carrying capacity, with the Custom PHEV offering up to 1,130kg of load hauling ability. As the battery sits below the load floor, there is also no compromise on the van’s 6.0m3 load volume. The Transit Custom PHEV will be offered from £39,145, rising to £42,950 for the highest Limited trim level. The PHEV will also be offered in people-carrying Tourneo form. Ford will offer an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on the battery pack.

Having trialled the PHEV in London, Ford is confident of orders from those companies involved. Indeed, original stock plans to sell around 2,000 Transit Custom PHEVs in the first full year are now said to be looking a little conservative, as demand for electric and hybrid LCVs continues to climb.

Though outwardly familiar, the bigger Transit model has a completely new interior, bringing its design in line with the smaller Custom model. It’s a successful update, with modern lines and plenty of useful storage space. The dash now features the familiar tablet-style 8-inch touchscreen and customers can order Ford’s SYNC3 infotainment system, with voice commands.

There are plenty of assistance systems on offer too, including Blind Spot Information System with Trailer Tow, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Sign Recognition and Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection. Transit can also be had with a new high-mounted rear-view camera, offering improved visibility even with the rear doors open. There is also the option of a high-mounted LED downlighter, to allow drivers to work behind the vehicle in low light conditions. Powered side load doors will be offered on Transit early next year.

Less visible are a host of new technologies, including a standard FordPass Connect on-board modem, that can be used to access a range of Ford telematic products for large and small fleet users. This will include access to live navigation updates and the provision of a WiFi hotspot within the vehicle.

Ford will offer two levels of telematic system initially. FordPass Pro is intended for small fleets of up to five vans and can be run from a smartphone. It allows the manager to locate the vehicles within the fleet and access van health data. Ford Commercial Solutions will offer a range of products for larger fleet users, providing fleet managers with an easy to read dashboard that will show fuel use, idling times, harsh braking events and a host of other operational data streams. The company is currently working on a driver app that will provide daily check information and damage reports to be uploaded into the fleet manager programme. The CAN BUS level information can also be exported to a customer’s third-party telematic and fleet management software products if preferred.