Ford’s plug-in van trials receive £4.7m boost from UK Government

Motor giant Ford has unveiled a new 12-month project aimed at enhancing air quality in London through the use of 20 plug-in hybrid Transit Custom vans, which has been backed by a £4.7m grant from the Government.

Supported by the Government-funded Advanced Propulsion Centre, the project will see Ford deploy 20 low-emission vehicles across the capital, some of which will be used in Transport for London fleets. The trials will take place in autumn this year and businesses are encouraged to secure a vehicle for fleet use.

“Teaming up with our London partners, we will also be able to trial software and telematics with enormous potential to reduce emissions and costs in the city,” Ford Europe’s chief executive Jim Farley said.

“This new type of partnership demonstrates our evolution to both an auto and mobility company. We have lots of work to do, but everyone is so energised by this breakthrough opportunity.”

The 20 (PHEV) Transit Custom vans can be charged with mains electricity for zero-emission travel and features on-board combustion engines for longer trips, if necessary. A Ford telematics system will collect data to monitor the fleet’s environmental impact.

Commercial London-based vehicles clock-up around 280,000 journeys each weekday, covering eight million miles in the process. According to Ford, vans represent 75% of peak freight traffic, with more than 7,000 of them driving per hour at peak times across Central London.

“The freight sector’s transition to ultra-low emission vehicles is central to cleaning up London’s toxic air,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said. “Transport for London continues to lead by example by increasing the number of its own vehicles that are electric and will find the data from these trials an invaluable resource for the LoCITY programme, which encourages the uptake of low emission commercial transport.”  

Low-emission cities

The five-year LoCITY programme was launched last January and will create a new environment operating standard to be followed by freight and fleet operators, vehicle manufacturers, fuel providers and the public sector.

LoCITY will apply real-world trials and research to demonstrate that using cleaner vehicles will not introduce any negative operational impacts, while simultaneously improving air quality. The programme will consist of three workstreams that focus on increased availability of low emission vehicles, improving the alternate fuel infrastructure – including charging points – and improving policies and planning.

The van trials fall under Ford’s ‘City of Tomorrow’ initiative which utilises technologies such as drones and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance urban driving to lower air pollution.

The PHEV vans are one of the 13 new global models set to be electrified by Ford, and entered into commercialisation within the next five years. As part of Ford’s plan to plough $4.5bn into electric vehicle solutions and extensions through 2020, the company unveiled seven of the models earlier this month.

Matt Mace

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