They’re quiet, powerful and easy to drive. They’re allowed into low-emissions zones in cities for nothing (though they still need to be registered), and they cost less to run and service. As long as they’ve got enough range, they’re a bit of a no-brainer.
The good news is that the E-Transit is no poorer in terms of working practicality than its forebears. You can have the new e-Transit in three lengths and two heights, including a bare chassis for sticking specialist equipment onto, a double-cab set up for extra people, and various other configurations.
There are bits of blue on the grille that mark it out as electric, but you’re not going to be overwhelmed by space-age Transitness - just a charge port on the nose. If it ain’t broke and all that. In the most regular panel van, you can have sliding doors both sides, and rear doors that open properly wide to reveal between 9 and a half and just over 15 metres cubed of loadspace, and it’s all very well-equipped with tie-downs and helpful hooks and lips.
The battery - like an electric car - is mounted out of the way under the floor, and the heavy duty rear suspension has been redesigned to cope with proper loads and still make the e-Transit handle properly whether loaded or unloaded. Again, it depends on the version, but it’ll take up to 1,758kg of … things.
More? There’s also the option of a thing called ‘Pro Power Onboard’ which is usually known as a vehicle-to-load system. Basically a set of plugs in the back that can provide up to 2.3kW of power for anything from a laptop to a drill. Handy if you’re on site all day.
But when all’s said and done, it needs to work for the driver/user as well as the load, and that’s where the E-Transit really scores. The E-Transit isn’t like the old, smelly diesel Transits we know and love; it’s more like a decent car these days. There’s a 12-inch touchscreen from the Mustang Mach-E that gets Ford’s Sync 4 system, so there’s over-the-air updates for the sat-nav, voice control, wireless smartphone integration, as well as a load of driver aids like lane-keep assist and cruise control. Then there are standard heated seats and a quickclear windscreen, parking sensors and keyless start. And yep - even Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
With storage absolutely everywhere, comfortable - if practical - seating and a simple rotary gearselector in the centre console which frees up space in the footwell, it’s a lovely thing. And the simplicity of the spinny gear selector is handy if you’re doing lots of manoeuvring.
But more than that, this doesn’t feel like a Transit van. It doesn’t rattle, smell of diesel and somebody else’s lunch, for a start. It’s smooth, it’s quiet - for a van - and it’s dead easy to drive. Just pick the gear and go.
There are two versions; one with 181bhp and 317lb ft of torque, and another one with 265bhp and the same torque figure. But the 181bhp version is plenty- it keeps up with traffic with fuss-free acceleration and un-vanlike smoothness. Not sporty, but it makes the E-transit weirdly serene - which can’t hurt.
Generally though, the E-Transit is a revelation. It’s cheaper than rivals, has more range and is super to drive. With the big ‘Ford Pro’ support package from the manufacturer on offer as well, it’s probably a more significant car for Ford than something like the Mach E. And that’s saying something.
Ford E-Transit battery, range and charging
Ford consulted with delivery companies to see what an acceptable level of range would be for end users - and they said ‘more than 150-miles a day’ - so the E-Transit should have every eventuality covered with a max-possible 196, especially if the van spends most of its time in town, where it can be most efficient.
There are huge caveats with that though - as with any electric vehicle - because once you factor in the possibility of a van full of bricks and the driving style of your average Transit driver (think Grand Prix / stunt professional), then you’re probably looking at less. But if the van is urban-bound, it should be as efficient as possible.
The E-Transit comes with exactly one option of battery - a 68kWh unit which is mounted low under the floor of the van, giving a nicely low centre-of-gravity, with the motor by the rear axle (the E-Transit is rear-wheel drive), and all the control units under the nose. Cleverly, those electronics are packed in such a way as to mimic a crash structure in the event of a collision. Which is clever. Oh, and the spare wheel is under the nose as well, if you choose to option one.
Chunky 11.3 kW AC charging means you can slow charge at a depot in just over eight hours if you are connected to commercial-spec three phase power. There’s decent faster DC charging at 115kW via the nose-mounted charging point - which should see 15 to 80-percent in just over half an hour on the appropriate public unit.
Customers also have access to the FordPass charging network, which really helps when you’re out and about. One bill sent directly to the office, for a start.
Ford E-Transit practicality and load space
Ok, so this is where it gets a bit complicated when it comes to ‘spec’ on an E-Transit, because there’s quite a few ways to skin this Ford cat. With three possible lengths and two height options, as well as a bare chassis cab (to which any specialist equipment can be bolted), there’s a few options. Add to the mix crew-cab choices to carry people and a couple of different trims, and there’s a fractal of possibles.
But suffice to say, there’s about as much practicality on offer as any vehicle on the market, and even the fully-independent rear suspension doesn’t interfere. There’s a plethora of tie-downs and Pro Power Onboard as an option, which can deliver 2.3kW of 240v power direct from the traction battery for powering tools on-site. That means operating a bandsaw for a couple of miles of range per hour - handy if you’re at a place where you can’t plug in, and means you don’t need to carry a petrol generator.
Ford E-Transit Technology and safety
The obvious stuff is that the E-Transit gets a crisp, clear 12-inch touchscreen from the Mach E and a load of possible driver assistance systems. There’s back-up and top-down cameras for parking, and if you’ve got a fleet of more than five Transits, there’s Ford telematics so that you can spy… uh… check in on your gang, monitor the vehicle’s health and do all sorts of other stuff, so you never waste time.
Then there’s the Ford Pass Pro app for your phone so that you can do loads of stuff remotely, and access to aggregated charging. Forgotten to lock the van? You can do it from home. And yes, there’s remote start and pre-conditioning, too, so a Transit is ready to go when you are.
On the safety front, with its collision-avoidance systems and plenty of airbags, the E-Transit looks like it’ll do well should the worst happen, and there’s obviously been some thought put into the whole thing; the control electronics in the nose have been bolted together in such a way as to mimic a crash structure if you have a front-on smack. No news as to whether any of the systems will stop a driver putting door dings into other parked cars on the way to grab the 4th Ginster’s pasty of the day though.
Ford E-Transit performance and drive
With no load on board, the 181bhp of the ‘standard’ Ford E-Transit is perfectly acceptable, but even loaded up, the way that electric power makes torque should really suit a van. With independent rear suspension, it should be secure empty or loaded up, but generally the E-Transit swooshes around with much more verve than a 2.0-litre diesel. It’s not fast, but it doesn’t need to be; what it is, is confident and smooth. There’s a 265bhp version (the same torque), but we haven’t tried that yet. Stick that motor into the smallest Ford E-Transit and it might be quite the thing.
There are driving modes just like an electric car, too. Normal is for everyday Transiting, ‘Slippery’ is for when it’s wet and awful out - handy if you’ve got a big load in the back - and Eco helps you get the most from the battery by limiting acceleration, top speed and knocking back the climate control, and Ford reckons that could get you between 8 and 10 percent extra range. Handy if you need to just get back to the depot for a recharge.
Then there’s L Mode which increases the brake re-gen when you tap the brakes once, or press the little button in the middle of the gear selector. It works, though it’s not as strong as it could be. It’s also got a really handy turning circle, and good vision - all supremely useful when piloting a big van in a city environment.
Ford E-Transit pricing and running costs
With most comparable full-size e-vans weighing in at prices that start with a ‘6’, the Ford E-Transit’s mid-40s pricetag looks exceptional in context. And none of those offer the standard official WLTP range that the Transit manages. Obviously absolute costs depend on the specification, but there’s some wriggle room in the fact that the Ford E-Transit is cheap(er) in the first place.
The interesting thing about the Transit is that Ford really have thought about the whole ecosystem that surrounds running vans for business - recognising that a big switch to electric is quite daunting. The Ford Pro ecosystem will help with purchasing, financing, setting up the infrastructure for multiple-vehicle charging, monitoring/telematics, servicing - literally everything. If you’re a fleet manager with loads of vehicles, that’s invaluable.
But the fact remains that there are loads of advantages to electric vans without all the Ford support. While the government grants for electric cars have been snipped a bit, commercial electric grants are still relatively generous. The smallest electric vans are eligible for a £5,000 subsidy, while the biggest can get up to 16 grand off. That’s not to be ignored, especially if you run a fleet.
Plus, electric vans are predicted to be up to 40% cheaper to service than the equivalent diesel, and far cheaper to charge up than to refuel - especially if powered by a low-cost renewable tariff back at a depot rather than a public charger. Ford seems confident; there’s a 3yr/60,000 mile warranty on the van, and an 8yr, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery. Interestingly, there’s also a neat loophole in government regulations. On a standard UK driving licence, you can only drive vehicles up to 3.5tonnes, but the biggest Transit is officially 4.25, so should be ineligible. BUT, because the e-Transit is considered ‘alternatively fuelled’ you can drive the big Transit on a standard licence. Handy.