The next frontier for electrification may very well be commercial vehicles. Tesla and Daimler are planning different classes of electric trucks, and Workhorse is preparing to launch its extended-range W-15 pickup for fleet use. Now, Ford is getting in on the action. The Blue Oval is teaming with Deutsche Post, the German postal service, to develop a new series of electric vans.
Deutsche Post's StreetScooter division intends to build 2,500 electric urban delivery vans, with production set to start in July.
Deutsche Post was interested in electric delivery vehicles long before Ford came onboard. In 2012, it contracted with StreetScooter (then an independent company) to develop prototype electric vans, before buying the company outright in 2014.
Last year, Deutsche Post unveiled a production electric van of its own design, and now has 2,500 of them in operation. The Ford partnership will focus on larger vehicles. The two companies plan to modify a Transit chassis with an electric powertrain, and put at least 2,500 of these vehicles into service with Deutsche Post by the end of 2018.
At the same time, StreetScooter will ramp up production of the smaller delivery van at factories in Aachen and North Rhine-Westphalia. It hopes to eventually manufacture 20,000 vans per year, and allow Deutsche Post to replace all of its internal-combustion delivery vehicles with electric ones. It's an important goal, especially considering that BMW's hometown of Munich may ban diesel cars.
The Deutsche Post partnership is the latest in a series of Ford dalliances with electrified vans. Ford unveiled a prototype Transit Connect hybrid taxi at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, and is testing plug-in hybrid Transit Custom vans in London. These projects are part of a major Ford push for more hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars that will eventually yield hybrid versions of the F-150 and Mustang.
But it's unclear how serious Ford is about electrified commercial vehicles for the U.S. market. The Transit Custom plug-in hybrid will go into production in 2019, but only in Europe. Ford hasn't confirmed whether the Transit Connect hybrid will go into production, or whether the electric Transit co-developed with Deutsche Post will be made more widely available.