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Ford Motor Company has announced that it is pursuing a number of avenues aimed at easing the financial burden on small businesses and fleet companies, many of which are feeling the pinch of current gas prices.
A big aspect of Ford’s plan will be the introduction of a North American version of the ubiquitous Ford Transit commercial van, designed to supplement the long-running E-Series (née Econoline).
When it begins production at the Kansas City, Miss. assembly plant next year, the Americanized Transit will be offered with Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and also a diesel engine (though the automaker has yet to provide specifics on what this oil burning motor will be).
As a result, Ford says the Transit will achieve around 25 percent better fuel economy than the current E-Series, which is no doubt welcome news to many fleet operators.
In addition, during the Automotive Press Association conference in Detroit this week, Ford’s director of North American fleet, leasing and re-marketing programs, Kevin Koswick, said that the automaker is committed to providing a range of options to help fleets lower their operating costs. Besides introducing more fuel thrifty vehicles like the Transit, that also includes alternative fuel sources such as hybrid, plug-in hybrid, pure electric, biodiesel and Compressed Natural Gas (which the current E-Series vans are designed to run on besides gasoline).
Also, in order to enable fleet operators to better keep track of their costs and monitor emissions output, Ford is also introducing a new tool dubbed the “Vehicle Emissions and Fuel Cost Calculator.”
This shows, via information such as the type of vehicle used, the type of driving situations, as well as local traffic conditions and energy sources available in a particular location, a specific map of fleet fuel consumption and emissions output.
The idea is that fleets can make an informed decision as to which type of vehicles they use and for what purpose when it comes to reducing costs and impact on the environment.
The proprietary program, which must be used in conjunction with the support of a Ford representative, enables customized scenarios to be created for fleet customers, using special formulas and variables to determine the actual level of environmental impact and fuel costs of specific vehicles.
Given that it’s long been the preferred supplier of vehicles to taxi fleets, Ford has offered a Compressed Natural Gas option on its Crown Victoria for years. More recently, it has expanded the availability of CNG and LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) options to its larger commercial vehicles, namely the E-Series vans (of which it has already shipped some 3000 conversions) Transit Connect and most recently, the F-450 and F-550 Super Duty chassis cab trucks.
At the annual Ford Fleet Product and Business Conference on June 7, the company presented the details of its new fuel conversion option, which will be available on F-450 and F-550 trucks powered by the 6.8-liter V10 engine. Making the CNG/LPG option easier is the fact that the V10 already comes with hardened exhaust valves and seats that can withstand gaseous fuels.
Because around 97 percent of natural gas is domestically produced in the United States and there are available government tax credits for commercial fleet operators that convert their vehicles to run on alternative fuels, the F-450/550 gas conversion is likely to prove very popular.
Ford will provide calibration guidance to recommended CNG/LPG conversion specialists for the Super Duty chassis cabs, much in the same manner that programs are in place for the E-Series and small Transit Connect. By adhering to the guidelines and bulletins issued by Ford, the converted trucks will be able to maintain their full factory warranties.
[Source: Ford Motor Company]