Ford’s sophisticated yet simple E-Transit electric commercial van goes on sale this month in the US. The E-Transit got some unique feature like look-at-me like disappearing door handles and steering yokes.
There’s no learning curve with the E-Transit, and that’s exactly how Ford wants it. The gasoline-powered version of the Transit is America’s No. 1 selling medium-duty business van. Tens of thousands of people work in them every day at businesses ranging from owner-operator food trucks to utilities and massive delivery services.
Why? It’s a tool, not a toy. Time spent figuring out fancy new features and controls is time not working or getting to work, and that’s lost income.
There’s plenty new in the E-Transit, but Ford makes it almost unconsciously simple, with the exception of a chiding electronic voice that delivers messages like, “Unless in an emergency, try to avoid sudden braking. Looking ahead and braking early can help.”
There’s no button inviting you to experiment with different levels of regenerative braking, as you’ll find in many personal use EVs.
Instead, regeneration — the term for recharging the battery slightly while slowing down — happens when you press on the brake. Press harder and you get a second, higher level of regeneration. If you want the most regen, a setting that slows the vehicle dramatically when you’re off the accelerator pedal, press the “L” button in the gear selector. There isn’t a low gear, but max regen mimics one by slowing the vehicle noticeably, though not to a complete stop.
If you do pay attention, though, you’ll notice plenty of differences. More power when you accelerate. Enough to trigger another scolding from the energy-conscious electronic nanny. Smooth, easy acceleration uses less energy, helping the E-Transit achieve its rated range of 126 miles on a fully charged battery.
The other big difference between this Transit and the gasoline-powered model: nearly silent operation. There’s no sound or vibration from the engine — a very pleasant change in a van where the noisy engine is often just inches from the driver’s knee. The EV is so quiet it emits a forklift-style beeping when it is moving at neighborhood speeds to alert children and joggers.
The ride is also exceptionally smooth, thanks to a new independent suspension required by placement of the electric motor between the rear wheels.
Other electronic assistants manage the response to the accelerator pedal so the driver needn’t be mindful of changing cargo weights throughout the day.
“It makes laden and unladen vehicles drive similarly,” vehicle engineering manager Dennis Slevin said.
The E-Transit’s 68 kilowatt-hour battery can be charged in from 15% to 80% in 34 minutes — less than a decent lunch break — at 115 kW. If the driver takes the vehicle home at night, as Ford says 40% of Transit drivers do, a full charge takes 8 hours at 240 volts, the output of most home EV chargers.