Special Coverage

Geneva
Auto Show

GENEVA – Ford Motor Co. shows a battery-powered passenger version of its Transit Connect van at the auto show here that could become yet another offer in its electric-vehicle range.

The electric passenger-van concept joins the cargo version of the vehicle Ford unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in February and plans to sell in the U.S. in 2010.

Dan Jenkins, media relations manager for up-fitter Smith Electric Vehicles, says Ford has made no decision on electrifying the passenger version. However, he says in Europe, where Smith sells the vehicles under its own name, customers can order a passenger van now for delivery next year.

The Ford Tourneo Connect is a gasoline-powered passenger version of the Transit Connect sold in Ford’s European markets that adds seats, windows and some comfort features to the commercial version.

For the electric Transit Connect, Ford will ship windowless van bodies from the factory in Kocaeli, Turkey, with seats installed to get around the U.S. tariff on imported commercial vehicles.

The vehicles also will be exported without powertrains installed. Smith will add those at a new plant it will set up in the U.S.

A location for the factory has not been selected, though Smith has said it probably would be in the Midwest. After a visit to EVS-23 two years ago, the company solicited incentive offers from American states, and “we heard from all of them,” Jenkins says.

Smith formed a U.S. subsidiary, Smith Electric Vehicle U.S. Corp., giving unnamed private investors 51% of the shares, so it can qualify for green-mobility incentives from the Obama Admin. Jenkins does not say how big the factory might be, but in the U.K. Smith has installed capacity for 1,500 vehicles per year.

The Ford Transit Connect will be Smith’s second EV sold in the U.S. Later this year, a customer will launch sales of a Smith-modified Class 5 commercial van.

Smith sells the Transit Connect in the U.K. as the Smith Ampere (and Jenkins says he may talk with Adam Opel GmbH about its choice of name for the upcoming Opel Ampera extended-range EV). It is priced there at £35,000 ($49,000), about double the cost of Ford’s internal-combustion version.

Ford has not announced a selling price of the Transit Connect EV in America, but the gasoline version bases at $21,475.