Ford Transit Smart Energy Electric Concept Extends Range Through Solar And Heat Systems

Earlier this month, Ford announced that an all-electric Transit van would be coming in 2021.

At the GoFurther event in Amsterdam, the automaker showed two electric Transits: a camouflaged model and the Transit All-Electric Smart Energy Concept.

At the time, Ford didn’t say much about the latter but now the automaker is back with more details on the electric minibus study. For starters, the battery-electric Transit Smart Energy Concept is more than a design study, it’s used “to trial technologies that could help maximize the driving range of future electrified vehicles.”

Ford chose the 10-seater minibus format as it represents the toughest challenge for maximizing range. Research shows that a traditional heating system can reduce electric vehicle range by up to 50 percent in cold weather and it has an even greater impact on driving range when it comes to minibuses. That’s because they require significantly more energy to create a comfortable temperature for passengers, compared to goods transport vehicles and passenger cars.

Smart solutions for extending range

To deal with this challenge, the all-electric Transit Smart Energy Concept features energy-saving and energy-generating innovations such as solar panels and powertrain heat recovery systems. For example, an innovative heat pump utilizes 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.

Ford says this equates to extending the driving range by 20 percent. The minibus concept is also fitted with six solar panels on the roof that charge a 12-volt battery for powering seat heating, cabin lighting, and onboard electrical systems. Other energy-saving measures include ventilated double-glazed windows, as well as insulated rear floor and roof that further reduce cabin heat loss.

Developed by engineers at Ford’s Merkenich Technical Center in Germany, the one-off vehicle uses a Transit chassis fitted with the same battery-electric drivetrain technology as the StreetScooter Work XL commercial vehicle. This gives the Transit Smart Energy Concept a driving range of 150 km (93 miles) from a 4-hour charge.

Ford will begin road-trials with the Transit Smart Energy Concept later this year after completing wind-tunnel tests.

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