Ford is stepping up its commitment to bringing to market more hybrid vehicles with its announcement today that it and Azure Dynamics will deliver a pure battery electric Ford Transit Connect van in the United States and Canada next year.
Earlier this year, Collins Bus Corporation partnered with Azure Dynamics to produce a gasoline hybrid drive for its new Type A NEXBUS that is built on the Ford E-450 chassis. While the new Transit Connect van ostensibly will not be used for home-to-school student transportation (though, one never knows about special activity trips) it does represent yet another insight into the evolving hybrid electric market for the medium-duty commercial market.
While school bus contractor Durham School Services and Napa Valley (Calif.) Unified School District pilot the Collins NEXBUS in separate pilot programs, it's not expected that Ford will have another alternative fuel option available to the school bus industry anytime soon. The automaker has only made public its desire to introduce the battery electric Ford Focus in 2011 and a next-generation hybrid vehicle and a plug-In hybrid vehicle a year later. But amid rumors for some time now that Blue Bird might be interested in applying its propane technology to its Type A Micro Bird, and previous statements of interest from new Micro Bird partner Girardin Minibus on going the direction of diesel hybrids, in one way or another it figures that school bus operators won't have to wait too much longer to have their pick of additional green vehicles.
With it, of course, comes the knowledge necessary to service them. But with the slow yet sure proliferation of alt fuel large school buses both of the hybrid and natural gas variety, the technology is certainly transferable to smaller applications, as Collins is proving with its NEXBUS. But we want to hear from you? How do you see an increase in alt fuel Type As affecting maintenance operations?