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Ford reveals energy efficient electric minibus

Ford’s minibus uses a various features to keep its interior at a pleasant temperature, reducing energy demand on the vehicle’s battery

Ford has revealed the new Transit Smart Energy Concept – a one-of-a-kind 10-seater minibus that is helping the company explore solutions for maximising the energy efficiency and driving range of electrified vehicles.

While one survey showed that 40% of Europeans say the next vehicle they buy will likely be electric, the distance that drivers can travel on a single charge of a battery-electric vehicle continues to be greatly impacted by the use of cabin heating features. Research has showed that using the climate control system in a battery-electric vehicle can reduce the driving range by up to 50% in cold weather.

Compared to goods transport vehicles, multi-occupant vehicles such as minibuses require significantly more energy to create a comfortable temperature for occupants. The energy is provided by the high-voltage battery, presenting a significant challenge to the vehicle’s driving range.

Demonstrated recently for the first time at a special “Go Further” experience in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the fully-functioning, all-electric Transit Smart Energy Concept delivers 150 km driving range from a four-hour charge, supported by energy-saving and energy-generating innovations from solar panels to powertrain heat recovery systems.

“With frequent door openings, a large space to keep at comfortable temperatures, and a big payload to carry, a minibus presents the toughest challenge for maximising battery-electric vehicle range, and that’s exactly why we chose it for our new Transit Smart Energy Concept,” said Kilian Vas, project leader, Vehicle Architecture, Ford of Europe. “By developing this concept we’ve found a number of clever ways to save energy that could help further improve the electrified vehicle experience for customers in the future.”

Developed by engineers at Ford’s Merkenich Technical Centre, Germany, the Transit Smart Energy Concept uses the same drivetrain technology as the StreetScooter WORK XL commercial vehicle, and a Ford Transit chassis fitted with a battery-electric drivetrain for zero-emissions driving.

Innovations that enhance energy efficiency and driving range being tested for the first time include an innovative heat pump system that utilises 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%, resulting in a range extension of 20%.

The design also uses a power sliding door that opens halfway to reduce heat loss and can be activated by the passenger using a smart device. The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning blower is automatically deactivated when the door is open. It also includes a heated business-class passenger seats and surfaces that enable passengers to control their local temperature, reducing the energy required for the large cabin.

Six roof-mounted solar panels provide the charge for a 12-volt battery for powering seat heating, cabin lighting and on-board electrical systems including wireless charging for passenger mobile devices and a polycarbonate divider between the passenger door and seating area further reduces heat loss as passengers enter and exit, and protects passengers from external elements.

The minibus also uses ventilated double-glazed windows that reduce cold contact surfaces and insulate against heat loss. Finally, an insulated rear floor and roof further reduces cabin heat loss.

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