Ford Motor Co. will begin testing a fleet of 20 plug-in hybrid vans in partnership with commercial fleets serving London as part of the British capital’s efforts to lower vehicle emissions in its crowded center.
The project will team Ford with Transport for London, the city transit agency, and a variety of private fleets, which will use prototypes of Ford’s recently announced plug-in hybrid Transit Custom vans.
The Transit Custom plug-in hybrid, or PHEV, is one of 13 new electrified Ford car and truck models the automaker plans to introduce globally over the next five years. Another of those models is a standard hybrid (no plug) version of the F-150 pickup, slated for the North American and Middle East markets and scheduled to debut by 2020.
Ford has said that retail versions of the Transit Custom PHEV will be sold throughout Europe starting in 2019.
The test vehicles are scheduled to hit London’s streets in the fall.
Funding of 4.7 million pounds ($5.8 million) to outfit the vans with their hybrid systems and related electronics is being supplied by the United Kingdom’s government-financed advanced Propulsion Centre.
With the specially developed plug-in hybrids, Ford of Europe’s commercial vehicles unit also will be able to test “software and telematics with enormous potential to reduce emissions and [operating] costs in the city,” said Jim Farley, Ford of Europe’s chairman and chief executive.
Ford anticipates that most of the trips run by the plug-in hybrid vans will be of relatively short range, allowing the vans to operate extensively in all-electric mode when they can be recharged between trips.
The vans are still under development and Ford has not provided information about battery capacity or range.
Other manufacturers also are looking at electric commercial vehicles.
Workhorse Group Inc., known for its battery-electric delivery vehicles and aerial drones, said in November that it will begin developing full-size plug-in electric pickup trucks to deliver in 2018 for fleet use.
The Workhorse W-15 light-duty work truck, targeted at less than $50,000 before incentives, would be the first of its kind built in the U.S., Workhorse said. North Carolina-based power company Duke Energy has already signed a non-binding letter of interest for at least 500 trucks by 2019.