Of all the electric vehicles I saw, drove, or rode in earlier this month at the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s (EDTA) 2008 conference in Washington DC, none can have as immediate and important an impact as Smith Electric’s “Edison” … this electrified Ford Transit van has the potential to revolutionize local delivery for a wide range of firms, both small and large. The Ford Transit goes toe-to-toe with the venerable Sprinter for sheer versatility, offering a remarkable amount of cargo and head room.
The Smith Electric Edison conversion unit at the EDTA show packed 44kW of Lithium Ion Phosphate battery packs, slung beneath the floorboards. With an estimated 100 miles of range at 50 miles per hour, and an eight-hour recharge time, the Edison should hit a sweet spot with a range of contractors, delivery services, and transport companies.
While virtually unknown in America, Smith Electric Vehicles has been around for more than 80 years and is billed as “the world’s largest manufacturer of road-going commercial electric vehicles.” At the time of the conference, Smith was in the process of researching locations for a new factory in the United States.
Smith Electric produces a trio of Edison models, based on the Transit. In addition to the panel van, an Edison Chassis Cab and 15-passenger Minibus round out the range. The UK-based company also markets an electrified version of the smaller Transit Connect as the “Ampere,” and the “Newton,” a larger traditional box truck. Smith offers an innovative battery leasing plan in the UK to help offset the significant cost of the high-end Lithium Ion Phosphate battery packs.
With Ford planning to bring an electric van to America in 2010, it stands to reason that the conversion work will be handled by Smith, although it’s not a given. It’s also unclear whether the smaller Transit Connect Van or larger Transit Van will be the first model to begin the electrification of the US fleet.
– by Daniel Gray