The electric evolution is coming and, in the commercial vehicle segment in particular, opportunity dangles in the balance for automakers. While the celebrity consumer EVs capture all of the automotive headlines, it’s the commercial folks who form the backbone of our economy; everyone from small-business owners to corporate titans alike will soon be considering serious investment in EV fleets. Their decisions will dictate the balance in a competitive slugfest moving into 2021. Ford’s haymaker in this fight for business, the E-Transit, will be introduced to the public on November 12.
— Ford Motor Company (@Ford) October 29, 2020
The Transit Van has always been a staple for the getting-things-done crowd. Debuting in 1965, the initial “pig-nosed” generation survived more than 20 years, including its first (and much-welcomed) face-lift in 1978, and enjoyed a splash of popularity in the UK, where sales remain strong to this day.
Subsequent generations (four total) would evolve with the times, both mechanically and stylistically, and in 2005, the 5,000,000th van was sold. To date, the 2020 Transits offer an impressive range of styles, heights, and lengths. In consideration of this entire run, nothing will compare to the E-Transit’s monumental shift to a zero-emission EV powertrain, a move that’s surely the most radical evolution in its history and will be for a quite some time.
In the profile rendering released by Ford, the shape and silhouette appear to have transitioned naturally into the upcoming E-Transit. No surprises there, as the appearances of a commercial vehicles will never headline the list of priorities. Rather, Ford is suggesting in its consumer research findings that Americans have grown increasingly concerned about the environmental impact produced by gas-powered delivery infrastructure at a rate of over 60 percent, including an aggressive incline of 12 percent in the last year. Over half of those polled also indicated that they’d opt to receive packages from an EV-powered vehicle over a gas-powered one if given an option. Some (43 percent) even went so far as to claim they’d wait longer for a zero-emissions van delivery. One thing is certain, if the consumers care as much as the research suggests, the producers will follow, and soon everyone be branding green-thumb advocacy numbers, not styling.
While the competitors in this arena remain coy, Ford appears to be one of the first unafraid to tip its hand publicly. GM’s rumored play, the BV1, will eventually go toe-to-toe with Ford (production is rumored for late 2021), but that development has remained on the hush since early summer. Rivian’s role in this game has smoke, after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos unofficially slipped details of a contractual sort regarding the upstart (to the tune of a $700 million investment). The goalpost sits at 10,000 vans making road deliveries by 2022 and 100,000 by 2030. All quiet on the eSprinter front; as Daimler competes in the Euro commercial market, it’s unclear when it will elect to sell in the American market and begin pulling its combustion-engine models. Same goes for an EV ProMaster from Ram, which may turn to a Fiat E-Ducato variant stateside. Tesla is Tesla. If anything’s announced, it’ll be a show.
In the meantime, it’s Ford’s turn to have the stage.