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Ford reveals 'smart energy' Transit van concept

16/04/2019
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The humble Ford Transit van is not a vehicle you’d usually associate with cutting-edge energy technology, but the new Transit Smart Energy Concept aims to prove otherwise. The one-of-a-kind 10-seater minibus trials technologies that could help maximise the driving range of future electrified vehicles.
Ford's new Smart Transit concept tests out a series of new range-extending, energy-saving innovations.
(Ford’s new Smart Transit concept tests out a series of new range-extending, energy-saving innovations. Image via Ford).

The new energy technologies fitted to Ford’s ‘smart transit’ include an innovative heat pump recovery system, smart device activated power door, and integrated solar panels.

Ford have selected the minibus format to trial these technologies as it’s expected that this type of vehicle represents the toughest challenge for maximising range. 

While one survey showed that 40 percent of Europeans say the next vehicle they buy will likely be electric, the distance that drivers can travel on a single charge of a battery-electric vehicle continues to be greatly impacted by the use of cabin heating features. Research has showed that using the climate control system in a battery-electric vehicle can reduce the driving range by up to 50 percent in cold weather.

Compared to goods transport vehicles, multi-occupant vehicles such as minibuses require significantly more energy to create a comfortable temperature for occupants. The energy is provided by the high-voltage battery, presenting a significant challenge to the vehicle’s driving range.

“With frequent door openings, a large space to keep at comfortable temperatures, and a big payload to carry, a minibus represents the toughest challenge for maximising battery-electric vehicle range, and that’s exactly why we chose it for our new Transit Smart Energy Concept,” said Kilian Vas, project leader, Vehicle Architecture, Ford of Europe. “By developing this concept we’ve found a number of clever ways to save energy that could help further improve the electrified vehicle experience for customers in the future”.
The interior of Ford's new Smart Transit concept.
(The interior of Ford’s new Smart Transit concept. Image via Ford).

Developed by Ford engineering at the company’s Merkenich Technical Center in Germany, the innovations being tested out on the Transit include:

  • An innovative heat pump system that utilises waste heat from the drivetrain components, the outside air and the air within the cabin to reduce heating system energy usage by up to 65 percent, resulting in a range extension of 20 percent.

  • A power sliding door that opens halfway to reduce heat loss and can be activated by the passenger using a smart device. The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning blower is automatically deactivated when the door is open.

  • Heated business-class passenger seats and surfaces that enable passengers to control their local temperature, reducing the energy required for the large cabin.

  • Six roof-mounted solar panels that charge a 12-volt battery for powering seat heating, cabin lighting and on-board electrical systems including wireless charging for passenger mobile devices.

  • A polycarbonate divider between the passenger door and seating area that further reduces heat loss as passengers enter and exit, and protects passengers from external elements.

  • Ventilated double-glazed windows that reduce cold contact surfaces and insulate against heat loss.

  • Mood lighting that adjusts according to cabin temperature – red for warmth and blue for cooling – subliminally influencing passengers’ perception of cabin temperature.

  • An insulated rear floor and roof that further reduce cabin heat loss.
  • The driver of the Smart Transit can monitor the temperature status of all passenger seats and associated energy savings from a tablet-inspired screen mounted in the centre console.
    (The driver of the Smart Transit can monitor the temperature status of all passenger seats and associated energy savings from a tablet-inspired screen mounted in the centre console. Image via Ford).

    Ford anticipates the first road-trials with the Transit Smart Energy Concept later this year after completing wind-tunnel tests, as the company seeks to develop new strategies to enhance the performance and driving range of electrified vehicles.

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    Ford reveals 'smart energy' Transit van concept - Time to read 4 min
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