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Ford E-Transit 2023 review: 420L BEV Mid Roof - GVM test

Van spotters will struggle to pick the E-Transit from its ICE stablemates. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5

Ford has ventured into the pioneering world of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) for commercial use with the launch of its E-Transit, which will compete for buyers in the Light Duty (3501-8000kg) segment of Australia’s Heavy Commercial market.

According to the company’s research, the new electrified member of its Transit fleet has a maximum driving range that’s more than double the average distance a typical commercial van travels each day in urban use.

So, we recently got behind the wheel for a week, focusing on the urban driving for which Ford claims the E-Transit is best suited (as opposed to long highway hauls), to see how it compares to diesel equivalents in its pure workhorse role.

 

Price and Features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our test vehicle is officially known as the 420L BEV Mid Roof, with 420 denoting its 4.2-tonne GVM (it’s actually 4.25-tonne), L denoting its long wheelbase and Mid Roof being one of two roof heights available, with the other being the optional High Roof variant.

Like its taller stablemate, our test vehicle comes with a 68kWh lithium-ion battery pack, electric motor and single-speed automatic transmission for a list price of $104,990 plus on-road costs.

For that money you could almost buy two diesel Transit 350L Auto equivalents. Even so, the E-Transit brings zero emissions, reduced noise and claimed lower operating and maintenance costs for business operators. With 198kW and 430Nm, it also has the most power and torque of any model in the Transit line-up.

Its large 12-inch touchscreen is the gateway to numerous 'Sync 4'-connected services including the 'Ford Pass' app, which includes 'Power My Trip'. (Image: Mark Oastler) Its large 12-inch touchscreen is the gateway to numerous 'Sync 4'-connected services including the 'Ford Pass' app, which includes 'Power My Trip'. (Image: Mark Oastler)

It comes equipped with 16-inch steel wheels and 235/65R16C tyres plus a full-size spare, along with dark grey bumpers and side-mouldings in areas where scrapes and dents usually occur in hard-working vans. Factory options include dual side-sliding doors and more.

A steel bulkhead/cargo barrier separates the cargo bay from the cabin, which comes standard with a single driver’s seat and twin-passenger bench seat that are all heated.

The 10-way adjustable driver’s seat includes a fold-down inboard armrest, adjustable lumbar support and base-cushion rake.

Ford E-Transit comes equipped with 16-inch steel wheels and 235/65R16C tyres plus a full-size spare. (Image: Mark Oastler) Ford E-Transit comes equipped with 16-inch steel wheels and 235/65R16C tyres plus a full-size spare. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Plus there’s a two-way adjustable steering wheel, power-folding and heated door mirrors, daytime running lights, three 12-volt accessory outlets, two USB ports, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.

Its large 12-inch touchscreen is the gateway to numerous 'Sync 4'-connected services including the 'Ford Pass' app, which includes 'Power My Trip'.

By entering a destination, this app can consider the vehicle’s current state of charge in addition to real-time traffic conditions, to help identify charging stops when a customer will need them.

Design – is there anything interesting about its design?

Apart from the distinctive blue grille bars and rear-door badge, you’d struggle to pick the E-Transit from the closely-related 350L. However, underneath its work-focused exterior there are considerable differences.

Although it shares the same MacPherson strut front suspension and four-wheel disc brakes, the E-Transit’s 14.3-metre turning circle is 1.0-metre larger than the 350L.

And its electric motor and single-speed transmission are mounted under the floor between the rear wheels, which required design of a unique coil-spring independent rear suspension.

The long, wide and slim lithium-ion battery is tucked up neatly beneath the load floor, to ensure that the cargo volume matches the 350L. This also ensures that many load-area conversions will carry over to the E-Transit with minimal modifications.

The E-Transit’s 14.3-metre turning circle is 1.0-metre larger than the 350L. (Image: Mark Oastler) The E-Transit’s 14.3-metre turning circle is 1.0-metre larger than the 350L. (Image: Mark Oastler)

The big battery brings a considerable increase in kerb weight, given the E-Transit weighs 231kg more than its 350L equivalent. So, although the E-Transit is the most powerful of the Transit fleet, it’s also the heaviest.

However, in terms of power-to-weight and torque-to-weight ratios based on kerb weights, it compares favourably.

For example, the diesel 350L has 19.3kg/kW compared to the E-Transit’s superior 13.3kg/kW, while the 350L’s 6.1kg/Nm is lineball with the E-Transit’s 6.2 figure.

E-Transit features the distinctive blue grille bars. (Image: Mark Oastler) E-Transit features the distinctive blue grille bars. (Image: Mark Oastler)

The driver’s instrument display shows when the battery is being topped-up by regenerative braking and how much engine power is being used, ranging from 0 to 100 per cent.

It also displays average energy consumption (kWh/100km), remaining battery charge, projected driving range and other BEV-specific functions.

The cabin offers ample headroom, but those seated in the centre must have their feet in a split-level position with their right foot on the (now defunct) transmission hump and their left foot on the floor.

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside?

With its hefty 2639kg kerb weight and 4250kg GVM, our test vehicle has a 1611kg payload rating compared to the 350L’s smaller 1142kg. However, the E-Transit is not rated for towing.

The cargo bay, which in Mid Roof form offers 11-cubic metres of load volume, has internal walls that are lined to roof height. It’s accessed from the kerbside through a sliding door with a generous 1300mm opening width.

Rear access is through a pair of barn-doors which open to 270 degrees to optimise forklift access. Large magnets protrude from each side of the body to firmly secure these doors when fully opened which is a welcome safety feature.

With its hefty 2639kg kerb weight and 4250kg GVM, our test vehicle has a 1611kg payload rating compared to the 350L’s smaller 1142kg. (Image: Mark Oastler) With its hefty 2639kg kerb weight and 4250kg GVM, our test vehicle has a 1611kg payload rating compared to the 350L’s smaller 1142kg. (Image: Mark Oastler)

A button located inside the right-hand barn-door switches on a bright external LED overhead light to illuminate rear-loading in poor light conditions.

The load floor, which is protected by a composite liner, is 3533mm long and 1784mm wide with 1392mm between the wheel housings.

That means it can carry three 1165mm-square Aussie pallets or four 1200 x 800mm Euro pallets, secured by up to 10 load-anchorage points. The  1786mm internal height allows tall people to stand with minimal stooping.

The cargo bay, which in Mid Roof form offers 11-cubic metres of load volume, has internal walls that are lined to roof height. (Image: Mark Oastler) The cargo bay, which in Mid Roof form offers 11-cubic metres of load volume, has internal walls that are lined to roof height. (Image: Mark Oastler)

There’s ample cabin storage including a large-bottle holder and bin in each door, plus angled large-bottle holders/bins on each side of the lower dash and small-bottle/cupholders on each side of the upper dash.

There are also three open bins across the top of the dash-pad, a slender vertical bin and pop-out cupholder in the lower centre dash, plus a full-width overhead shelf with numerous compartments.

There are also three open bins across the top of the dash-pad. (Image: Mark Oastler) There are also three open bins across the top of the dash-pad. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Both base cushions on the passenger seat can be tipped forward to access a large hidden storage compartment below.

The centre passenger seat backrest also folds down to a horizontal position to reveal a handy work desk with pen holder, two-cupholders and an elastic strap for securing paperwork.

Under the bonnet – what are the key stats for its motor?

Its rear-mounted electric motor produces an unmatched 198kW and 430Nm. The lithium-ion battery’s energy supply can be boosted by using the ‘Low’ setting on the rotary dial e-shifter to optimise regenerative braking.

There are three switchable drive modes including default 'Normal', energy-saving 'Eco' and 'Slippery' to improve traction in low-grip conditions.

Its rear-mounted electric motor produces an unmatched 198kW and 430Nm. (Image: Mark Oastler) Its rear-mounted electric motor produces an unmatched 198kW and 430Nm. (Image: Mark Oastler)

The battery charge socket is located behind a spring-loaded flap in the grille and the E-Transit comes equipped with a Mode 3, 32-amp charge cable which is stored in the compartment under the passenger seats.

E-Transit can AC charge overnight, using a professionally-installed wall unit, in approximately eight hours at 11.3kW, or quick DC charge (15 to 80 per cent) at 115kW in approximately 34 minutes.

E-Transit can AC charge overnight, using a professionally-installed wall unit. (Image: Mark Oastler) E-Transit can AC charge overnight, using a professionally-installed wall unit. (Image: Mark Oastler)

However, Ford does not supply a cable to allow overnight charging at home using a domestic wall socket. That’s because its targeting large fleet buyers, so the cable it supplies is only for ‘at depot’ charging or when using public-charging facilities.

Efficiency – what is its driving range? What is its charging time?

Ford claims an official WLTP driving range of 230-307km from a single charge. When we collected the E-Transit it was fully charged but the projected driving range displayed on the instrument panel was only 179km, so there are variables in these figures.

However, we did end up inadvertently testing the single-charge driving range because we could not charge the E-Transit. That was due to our local public-charging facilities being located inside multi-storey carparks which could not be accessed due to height restrictions.

So, during the week we drove a total of 190km, with about 19km of range remaining. Therefore, it is capable of at least 200km on a single charge but 300km seems optimistic, which is nothing new given the equally optimistic L/100km figures automakers claim for combustion-engine vehicles.

We used the Low drive mode most of the time to optimise battery top-ups through regenerative braking and our testing included a mix of city and suburban roads, both unladen and when hauling a big payload.

Average consumption was 28kWh/100km, so we would suggest a 'real world' driving range of around 200-230km from a single charge.

Driving - what’s it like to drive?

It offers a comfortable and commanding driving position, thanks to the multi-adjustable seat, two-way steering wheel adjustment and clear eye-lines to the big truck-style door mirrors with lower sections offering wide-angle views.

You don’t need to warm-up the engine to generate cabin heating - it’s instant. And when you get underway it feels more like you're riding in a tram than a van, with its muted electric hum the closest we’ve come to driving a silent commercial vehicle.

With the big battery under the floor it feels firmly planted on the road when unladen, with a low centre of gravity providing good stability when cornering.

The battery weight, combined with E-Transit’s unique four-coil suspension, iron out the bumps and provide a supple ride quality.

Acceleration from standing starts is brisk and smooth in Normal mode, even though you can sense its 2.6-tonne kerb weight's slight reluctance to get moving even with 430Nm of instant torque. At 100km/h, there’s only tyre noise and a little wind-buffeting around the door mirrors.

Acceleration from standing starts is brisk and smooth in Normal mode, even though you can sense its 2.6-tonne kerb weight's slight reluctance to get moving even with 430Nm of instant torque. (Image: Mark Oastler) Acceleration from standing starts is brisk and smooth in Normal mode, even though you can sense its 2.6-tonne kerb weight's slight reluctance to get moving even with 430Nm of instant torque. (Image: Mark Oastler)

We drove the first 100km in Normal mode, during which average consumption was 27kWh/100km. We then switched to Eco mode, which resulted in a drop in performance without a corresponding decrease in consumption. Perhaps you need to drive it longer in Eco to harvest the benefits.

We then switched back to Normal mode for our GVM test. We forklifted 1300kg into the cargo bay which with driver equalled a total payload of 1400kg, which was still more than 200kg under its GVM limit. The rear suspension compressed 50mm with ample travel remaining, while the nose rose 35mm in response.

We forklifted 1300kg into the cargo bay which with driver equalled a total payload of 1400kg, which was still more than 200kg under its GVM limit. (Image: Mark Oastler) We forklifted 1300kg into the cargo bay which with driver equalled a total payload of 1400kg, which was still more than 200kg under its GVM limit. (Image: Mark Oastler)

The compressed suspension felt firmer, as you’d expect, but the electric motor hardly noticed this load around town, with acceleration and general response remaining strong if slightly subdued. Energy consumption increased to 28kWh/100km during our load run.

In strictly city driving, which the E-Transit is aimed at, it proved to be a capable workhorse. It can do the job quite economically, too, given that during most of our testing in Normal mode it was operating in the 0-50 per cent ‘power usage’ zone which provides ample performance.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating?

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs?

The E-Transit is covered by a five-year/unlimited km warranty plus a separate warranty for the lithium-ion battery and high-voltage electrical components of eight years/160,000km, whichever occurs first.

Capped-price service intervals are 12 months/30,000km, with a total cost for the first five scheduled services of $925 or just $185 per service. Such low maintenance costs are in stark contrast to the purchase price!

The E-Transit is quiet, comfortable, rides well, can handle heavy payloads, has zero emissions and would be well-suited to urban daily commercial use for which it’s been designed for. However, $104K-plus would be out of reach for many private owners and small businesses. That’s why Ford is aiming it primarily at fleet buyers, who will quickly determine the commercial success or failure of the E-Transit in Australia. Watch this space.

 

 

$104,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5
Price Guide

$104,990

Based on new car retail price

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