Alt-fuel vehicles are beginning to blend into the automotive landscape, and the all-electric, zero-emission Transit Connect Electric is no exception. The body is identical to the gasoline- and diesel-powered Transit Connect shells shipped in from Turkey to the AM General plant in Livonia, Mich., where they are upfitted with Azure Dynamic Corp.’s “Force Drive” powertrain.

The small van’s mighty interior remains unchanged. The electric version still offers 135 cubic feet of cargo space, 59 inches from floor to ceiling and more than six feet in load length. The floor space between the interior wheel arches is just an inch shy of four feet.

Space is spared since the 600-pound lithium ion battery pack is installed below the cargo floor, which offers another bonus: Business Fleet editor Chris Brown reported that the lower center of gravity improves the van’s handling, aiding the electric version’s “more spirited” ride.

The Transit Connect Electric is no go-kart, but it does enjoy some of the higher low-end torque and quick acceleration that EV drivers have come to expect. Ford claims a zero-to-60 time of 12.0 seconds, beating the gasoline version by 0.3 ticks.

The battery pack also powers an onboard, 12-volt battery to run the headlights, power steering and coolant pumps. This setup is designed to keep the wheels turning for 80 miles on a full charge, which can be reached in as little as six hours with Ford’s proprietary, 240-volt charging station — a time that is more than quadrupled when the only outlet available is the U.S.-standard, 120-volt plug.

But Ford is not attempting to market the Transit Connect Electric to drivers who need to recharge on the fly. In its initial run of up to 1,000 units a year, the OEM will sell the van almost exclusively to fleet and for other commercial uses that will limit its use to regular, predetermined routes from a central location.

If that describes your operations, adding a Transit Connect Electric could represent a sound investment. The electric version won’t cost a dime in fuel, oil or other lubricants, and it contains fewer moving parts than the original.

The savings on maintenance, in conjunction with federal and state incentives, should help to defray the new van’s $54,000 sticker price.

Originally posted on Business Fleet