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Ford all-electric van brings 100 Michigan jobs

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Ford all-electric van brings 100 Michigan jobs



Production of the first all-electric Ford Transit Connect vans will help three Michigan companies add about 100 jobs over the next year, an early dividend on federal and state aid to promote battery technology.

The companies are Azure Dynamics, which makes the electric powertrain and is based in Oak Park; Johnson Controls-Saft, which assembles the battery packs in Holland, and AM General, which puts Azure’s powertrain together with the vehicle bodies in Livonia. Ford assembles the bodies at its plant in Kocaeli, Turkey, and ships them to AM General, via the port of Baltimore.

Azure has orders from about 10 customers who plan to buy an average of 20 electric Transit Vans each by the end of 2011. Among the early buyers are AT&T, Xcel Energy and Johnson Controls itself, said Azure CEO Scott Harrison.

Azure, which also makes gasoline-electric powertrains for larger commercial vans and shuttle buses, has grown from about 40 workers to 50 over the last year.

In June, Johnson Controls invested $6.1 million in Azure for a 3.4% stake.

AM General will initially add about 20 people at its Livonia plant, said a person familiar with the project.

JCI-Saft now employs 45 people at its Holland site, where the 28-kilowatt battery packs will be assembled. Johnson Controls spokeswoman Rebecca Fitzgerald said the company expects another 45 people to be hired in Holland by the end of 2011, while another 40 engineers and technical support people could be hired in JCI’s Milwaukee headquarters.

JCI-Saft is also supplying battery systems to BMW, Mercedes-Benz and a separate Ford plug-in hybrid model slated for introduction in 2012. Eventually, the Holland operation is expected to employ about 500 people.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy gave JCI-Saft a $300 million grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Earlier this year, the state of Michigan approved $168.5 million of incentives to convert an existing plant that made automotive interior parts for production of lithium ion batteries, that are now imported from France.

The vans can be recharged at a 120-volt outlet in 12 to 16 hours or at a 240-volt outlet in six to eight hours.

Last month Azure reported that it lost $11 million on revenue of $6.7 million during the first half of 2010, better than a $14.1 million loss on revenue of $1.8 million a year earlier.

Read more: Ford all-electric van brings 100 Michigan jobs | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20100922/BUSINESS01/100922029/1210/business01/Ford-all-electric-van-brings-100-Michigan-jobs#ixzz10Ip8OFye

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By Mark Kleis

The Ford Transit Connect Electric, a pure electric-powered version of the 2010 North American Truck of Year has finally begun to go into production, with a few examples already being sampled today.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm drove one of the few Transit Connect Electric trucks to have rolled off of the assembly line, celebrating the influx of jobs and suppliers from the state of Michigan being involved in the production of the vehicle. Ford has teamed up with Azure Dynamics, Johnson Controls and AM General in order to produce the Transit Connect Electric due to its unique components.

Once the partners were selected, Ford and its partner companies tapped into all available resources to get the vehicles done as quickly as possible, while keeping as much of the development and as many of the jobs as possible in Michigan. For example, the government provided funding through the federal Department of Energy and the Michigan Economic Development Council to support development and production of the new battery electric vehicle. As a result, program partners have all added a significant number of jobs to their employee base for development and production of the vehicle.

Johnson Controls-Saft has opened a $220 million li-ion battery plant in Holland, Michigan, in order to produce the batteries. The body will come from AM General, which will produce them in Livonia, Michigan. The next player in the team, Azure Dynamics, will integrate Ford's ForceDrive electric drivetrain into the body produced by AM General.

"Transit Connect Electric exemplifies how we are leveraging our relationships as well as our hybrid and advanced powertrain programs to bring energy-efficient technologies from the laboratory to the street," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. "Not only is this an ideal vehicle for eco-conscious fleet operators, it is an important part of Ford’s future."

This pure EV is set to enter fleet service before the end of the year, with Johnson Controls being one of the first to place an order for the vehicle, requesting 20 examples. After a limited run of vehicles being produced for fleet order in 2010, the Transit Connect Electric will enter full production in early 2011, according to Ford.

Ford's first pure EV will look and drive very much like the Transit Connect already on the road today in North America. Ford and Azure Dynamics have teamed up to develop an all-new electric drivetrain that will make this the greenest truck on the market - and will become the first true mass-market pure EV to go on sale in North America.

Ford says that the target range of the Transit Connect Electric will be 80 miles - with a top speed of 75 mph. The vehicle will be rechargeable in six to eight hours with either a 120V or a 240V outlet. Ford will provide a special cord that will function in both outlet types. The re-charge point is located on the passenger-side rear wheel, much like a gas tank cover, and accesses the liquid-cooled 28-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.

The Transit Connect Electric will have similar acceleration times to that of the gas-powered version, making it a capable real-world performer. The Transit Connect Electric will feature 135 cubic feet of cargo volume, 59.1 inches of internal height, 47.8 inches of width between wheel wells and 72.6 inches of length in the storage section.

Because the Transit Connect is built on the same C-platform that underpins the European Focus, the Transit Connect enjoys car-like ride and maneuverability, something that Ford is banking on to help make this an attractive vehicle for businesses operating in congested urban environments.



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