First Test: 2010 Ford Transit Connect Electric

Don Sherman

The TC conversion process begins with the arrival of a 'glider' -- a vehicle lacking propulsion equipment -- from Ford's assembly plant in Turkey. Units are transported by truck from Ford's Baltimore port to an AM General facility in Livonia, Michigan, where the aforementioned electric powertrain is installed. Approximately 20 man-hours of effort are required to complete a TC Electric.

Production begins later this year. Azure is planning on manufacturing several hundred per year after sales commence next spring with final volume determined by demand. No price has been announced but expectations are that it will top $50,000. What drives the cost beyond the reach of ordinary commuters is a battery pack with 75-percent more energy capacity than what powers Chevy's Volt.

Changes to the TC's interior are intentionally modest. The original gas gauge is now a battery level (state of charge) meter. The tachometer is a range meter with 85 miles at full scale, a 40-80 mile span marked solid green, a 20-40-mile span in broken green, and 0-20 markings in broken red. There's also a below-zero area where what Azure calls "derated" performance is available. It was our intention to avoid that realm for obvious reasons.

While electrically powered air conditioning will be available, the prototype unit provided for testing was not so equipped. It had a few experimental components, such as mounting brackets heavier than those intended for production, and a shift quadrant marked with positions that no longer apply with the new single-speed final drive unit. Because this TC Electric is also the vehicle that debuted at the Chicago Auto Show, its cargo hold is loaded with commercial parts bins and racks adding a couple of hundred pounds to the curb weight.

The TC Electric experience begins by twisting the 'ignition' key to the normal start position. That act is followed by total silence -- no click of relays or electronic hum is audible. The same is true when the console-mounted shifter is moved from Park to the D position. To put the show on the road, the driver goes through that familiar ritual and then simply steps on the accelerator.

You've heard about the silent smoothness of electrics but many of them -- including Teslas -- generate prodigious amounts of gear and electrical whine. The TC Electric, however, is as silent and civil as a gracious butler. This powertrain responds enthusiastically to a prod of the pedal with barely a murmur.

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